Chinese students celebrate lunar new year

Chinese students ring in the lunar new year.

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A dragon dance kicked off the Spring Festival Gala Saturday (Photo: Bianca Müller)

Every year, the largest annual migration takes place in Beijing before the start of the lunar new year. From Jan. 8 to the eve of Jan. 22, an estimated 3.16 billion passenger trips return wary travellers back home just in time for new year's festivities.

This year, the beginning of the lunar calendar in China, Vietnam and Korea starts Jan. 23. But spending the new year with family isn't an option for many international students from China, such as Lisa Zhang.

"I do miss my family, but what I miss most is the food," she said.

Zhang, a fourth-year economics student at Dalhousie University, is from the city of Qiangdao in eastern China. She says food plays an important role in the celebrations. Many dishes and snacks are prepared for guests so symbolically "no one will go hungry all year round."

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Dal and MSVU students held the Chinese Spring Festival Gala Jan.21

This year, Zhang spent New Year's Eve with her co-workers at the Japanese restaurant they work at. They prepared dumplings and ate together in the restaurant.

But Zhang wasn't the only one ringing in the new year at a home away from home this year.

Chinese student populations on the rise

The Chinese Students and Scholars Associations (CSSA) of Dalhousie and Mount Saint Vincent held the annual Spring Festival Gala on Saturday night. More than 400 people attended.

This was the first time MSVU was involved in the gala since its Chinese students association was ratified this fall. Their Chinese student population is at its highest this year, with 133 full-time undergraduates enrolled as of Oct.1. The largest spike occurred in 2009/10 with Chinese students making up just over a quarter of the total international student population.

Cuicui Wang, a second-year nutrition student at MSVU, is the president of the CSSA. She says she saw a need for the club with the increasing Chinese student population.

"The reason I set up this association is that I wanted to help the new students to know other Chinese students from DAL and SMU; to do activities together, communicate with each other, and to better get to know Halifax," she said.

Celebrating the Chinese New Year

Traditionally Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, lasts 15 days. Celebrations begin on the new moon and culminate with a lantern festival on the full moon.

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2012 is the year of the dragon. Dragons are characteristically creative, passionate and ambitious, but they can also be quick-tempered and conceited.

Celebrities born in the year of the dragon include John Lennon, Al Pacino, Bruce Lee and Sandra Bullock.

Dal and MSVU's Spring Festival Gala kicked off the year of the dragon with a dragon dance. The mythological significance being that the dragon wards off evil spirits to usher in a new year of luck and prosperity.

The gala featured more than 12 acts with a wide range of talent. Everything from traditional Chinese opera, dance and martial arts, to Chinese R&B and magic was performed.

Carina Fan, a second-year management student at Dalhousie, was one of the primary organizers of the event. With about 40 volunteers to put to work, she had little time to dwell on the fact she wouldn't be spending new years with her family.

"I have a lot of friends in Halifax, so I don't miss home as much as I would this time of year," she says, "but what I do miss are the fireworks."

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