Experiencing a new New Year.
By Rachel Garbe
Last Saturday, the 28th of January, there was a party in Lincoln, Nebraska. It was held in the UNL Union with the true party happening in the 2nd floor ballroom. Not a harvest celebration or a Husker sports party; it was the Lunar New Year Party. A celebration of both the Vietnamese and Chinese New Year. A time for foreign exchange students from these countries to observe in their culture away from home.
Invitations were distributed by these students to friends at their schools. Most of the invitations were passed out to fellow students at Pius and Lincoln Lutheran here in town. Each of the invites were printed with the instructions to RSVP four days before the party. As the exchange students from Vietnam handed out the invitations, they informed their friends to dress in “whatever;” but when pressed further, they instructed their friends to wear “semi-formal dresses.”
The guests’ outfits happened to be a step above “semi-formal” wear. Many of the Vietnamese exchange students dressed like they were heading to prom. There were floor-length dresses and several suits. Others wore the traditional wear of their country; an outfit of long pants and a dress type garment over the top. The exchange students’ friends were a little underdressed for such a celebration.
The celebration consisted of 23 performances. Each exchange student could sign up to present in front of their peers if they so desired.
One of these performances wasn’t performed by the students though. The Lion Dance, put on by the Doan Maria Nu Vuong Lion Dance team (DMNV), kicked off the party. DMNV danced with partners under an elaborate costume. Each “lion” was a different color and had its own personality. When the music started, with a bang from the drum, they danced together without missing a beat. They were, according to the myth, “chasing away evil spirits” which makes room for “happiness, longevity, and good luck.” The “lions” ran through the crowd and rubbed against guests demanding to have their ears scratched. Those “lions” are a “symbol of power, wisdom, and good fortune.”
The performances that followed were songs sung by the exchange students. The songs ranged from hit pop singles to slow love songs to caring lullabies in both English and Vietnamese. One exchange student by the name of Giang, a senior at Lincoln Lutheran, said they practice all year to be ready. They wanted to “do well in front of their friends.”
Sitting among them is like sitting in on a family reunion. None of the singers seemed nervous to preform in front of them. They wanted to entertain the best they could for their fellow exchange students to make the celebration perfect. They made sure that every part of the celebration was complete.
No party would be complete without food and this one was lacking nothing. There was traditional Vietnamese and Chinese foods. Guests enjoyed spring rolls, lychee (a mix between a pear and a cherry), and a thin wafer like rice cake. The hosts also served fried chicken and mashed potatoes for the friends that were a little nervous about trying something new.
The celebration ended with a dance party, very much like a homecoming dance. It was a time for the performers to unwind and the other guests to physically take part in the festivities.
This party is a reminder that there are different cultures present in our city. These cultures make Lincoln what it is today, and each culture should be welcomed, because despite the differences, the exchange students went out of their way to make their friends feel welcomed. There is a responsibility to be filled; a responsibility to welcome others.