While Binghamton University couples pack Lost Dog Cafe and singles head to The Rathskeller this upcoming Valentine’s Day, a very different type of celebration will take place in the Mandela Room. The Chinese American Student Union (CASU) and Vietnamese Student Association are once again presenting their annual Lunar Banquet on Feb. 14.
According to Alec Li, cultural chair for CASU and a sophomore majoring in biology, the event aims to give Asian students that celebrate the holiday a little piece of home on campus.
“Family members from all over the world usually go home to have dinner with their families for the Lunar New Year,” Li said. “It’s called a reunion dinner. A lot of students here can’t to go home to celebrate with their family and are stuck up here at school, so we offer this celebration to make up for that.”
The celebration will begin with a dinner consisting of traditional Chinese food such as tomato egg, a stir-fried tomato dish with scrambled eggs, and mapo tofu, a tofu dish with a spicy sauce and minced meat. The organizers aim to expose attendees to a wide variety of cultural foods and traditions.
“Some people may not understand the meaning behind certain customs or Lunar New Year in general, but they can still attend to experience the performances and minigames that have had months of practice and planning behind them,” Li said. “Whoever comes will go home learning something new about the traditions.”
Performances will range from a traditional lion dance, where performers mimic the movements of a lion in a costume to bring prosperity and good luck into the New Year, to more modern, nontraditional entertainment, including dance groups and singing. A multitude of minigames will offer prizes for those who win, and an after-party will be held at a location that has yet to be determined.
Aside from the food and good times, Li referenced a number of traditions and norms related to the Lunar New Year. Decorating and wearing red clothing, cleaning the house in advance of the Lunar New Year and handing red envelopes containing money to young people are all common practices. In several Asian cultures, the color red promotes good luck and is associated with positive energy and happiness.
As an event organizer, Li said he has found himself struggling to attract people outside of the Asian community to events, even though events like the Lunar Banquet are open to everyone.
“Outside of Asians, others don’t even seem to bat an eye when they see us tabling for this event, and I personally believe that there should be a change in how campus organizations are run,” Li said. “There are so many interesting events, but a lack of awareness on campus for cultural events allows them to go unnoticed by many of us.”
While the Lunar Banquet is dedicated to one of the most festive and joyful times in Chinese culture, Li recognizes that it also serves as a reminder of the importance of continuing to spread cultural awareness.
“[The CASU] E-Board and the general body [members] alone only makes a fraction of campus presence,” Li said. “We should be actively trying to make our cultural events almost as big as Spring Fling or [University Fest] in order to promote some more cultural unity within this school.”
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the event will begin at 7 p.m. Admission to the event costs $7.