Culture Stock during the Lunar New Year
By Boyd Allsbrook, student publicity manager of the Chinese Language and Culture Club
That Wheaton, Illinois, and the People’s Republic of China are worlds apart in every sense of the phrase can be taken as a truism. Western students at the school are at a loss to understand their Chinese counterparts’ experience of life in a country so alien to them, while Chinese students can be overwhelmed by their insertion into a culture that is often the exact opposite of home.
Wheaton’s Chinese Language and Culture Club (CLACC) hopes to bridge the gap between worlds from both sides. Comprised of American, Chinese, and Third Culture students, the cabinet’s driving force is a love for sharing and showcasing Chinese culture. The CLACC’s ongoing canon of events best suits this purpose. Various festivals, dumpling nights, Mandarin Tables, and Chinese tea parties draw attendees from all walks of life. Those who come inevitably mingle and find common ground; by the end of the night, they are all reclassified as merely “students having fun.” Chinese culture is brought to the forefront and both sides of the cultural expanse—American and Chinese—benefit from this exchange and melding. No better is this exemplified than by the CLACC’s Lunar New Year Celebration event.
Lunar New Year Celebration—also known as Chinese Spring Festival—is by far the most loved and important holiday in much of southeast Asia. It is a time to come home and to be with family. It is as strong a reminder of home to the Chinese as both Christmas and Thanksgiving are to Americans. Performances of traditional and modern Chinese songs, martial arts exhibitions, and dances have always been a staple for the CLACC’s New Year Celebration at Wheaton. Fresh dishes like Tangyuan and scallion pancakes are a welcome draw to a college population subsisting mainly on cafeteria food. Games, crafts, and Chinese decorations set a tone of joviality and freshness as partygoers bounce between activities. Unlikely conversations abound, as students from disparate walks of life meet and find one another not-so-different.
This Spring Festival Celebration is a microcosm of what God’s kingdom ought to look like: a diverse yet unified throng of celebrants, all partaking in the love and joy He has for us. It is an example of embracing difference in a community of people who are unified under the vital banner of love. It is a place set apart from the bulk of Wheaton culture, clearly and brightly under-stood as a joyous break from western midwinter. It is a place for Chinese students to remember where they come from and to feel remembered (this year, some even said that it felt like “home.”) It is a place for western students to encounter the vibrancy of a Chinese New Year and to foster appreciation for that culture in general. The CLACC cabinet sees it as a bridge; a space to share and learn and grow in mutual love for China’s people, customs, and soul. 新年快乐！
Read more about our Chinese Language and Culture program.