Walking up the stairs to the 1787 Room on Feb.10, people were promptly met by powerful aromas of traditional homemade Chinese dishes such as Cantonese soup, sweet-flavored rice with preserved pork and scrumptious bubble tea.
When they entered the room, a full spread of these dishes and more were on display atop a long table decorated in red and gold.
It was a Chinese New Year celebration, Castleton style.
The woman behind most of the cooking is the main inspiration for the event. Lin Wenjing, who teaches Chinese at Castleton, said this is the first year that she hasn’t been in China for the New Year.
She also said this has been her most memorable Chinese New Year to date.
“I am so happy because I have such a wonderful time with the Castleton faculty and students. I was still able to enjoy the traditional New Year food, and the students made it such a wonderful moment even though I was away from home. And it’s snowing!”
At the start of the event, one by one, Chinese I and II students stepped up to the microphone to introduce themselves, some more nervously than others. First, they stated their English names. Next, they told about their own hand-picked Chinese names – each with a different meaning pertaining to every unique individual.
Callie Ginter, for example, introduced herself as Gong Si Jie, which means respectful, thoughtful and prompt. Wenjing helped the students decide their Chinese names.
The celebration also included a chopsticks competition, the singing of traditional Chinese songs (anyone who knew them joined in) and a mini-drama performance of a famous Chinese play (some describe it as a rendition of “Romeo and Juliet”).
There was also a Calligraphy Show and a demonstration by professor Carrie Waara on how to make dumplings. The dumplings were later added to the buffet, placed in an awaiting pot of hot broth.
Food plays a large role in the Chinese New Year. Yang Yichen is a Castleton international student from China and was asked what it is like to celebrate the holiday back at home.
“It’s the most important holiday in China. We celebrate it for 15 days, and there is no work during that time. Family gathers from around China and we always prepare all kinds of food for the 15 days,” he said.
For this celebration, Wenjing wanted to be sure she was using the authentic Chinese ingredients she grew up eating. So she and well-versed Chinese student Eric Ginter travelled to a market in Albany, New York to get the real deal.
Wenjing tried to explain just how important the New Year celebration is in her country.
“In America, Christmas is a huge holiday, but in China the New Year is the biggest event,” Wenjing said.
Ginter further elaborated on its meaning.
“It’s a time for family to come together and celebrate. Often young people will travel from the cities to the country to reunite with all of the generations of family. Once together, they celebrate good fortune, prosperity, wealth and health for the coming year,” Ginter added.
After a successful first Castleton Chinese New Year Celebration, organizers said they hope to have another in 2017.