Three lions colored the stage, each distinct with their vivid embellishments and colorful shaggy hair. The performance, known as a lion dance, is a tradition in China and variations exist in other Asian countries.
The Chinese Student Association (CSA) hosted their 28th annual Lunar New Year banquet this past Saturday. CSA is a student organization that promotes unity and empowerment through education and recognition of Chinese and Chinese American cultural aspects.
“It really is a home away from home,” said banquet co-coordinator and CSA core member Lucy Yip. “We spend hours together. We’ll get together once a week for meetings, but during banquet season we actually meet four days a week minimum. It’s a lot of time spent together and we get to know everyone individually.”
The banquet celebrated Chinese culture and served as an opportunity for CSA’s 50 core members and students of other cultural organizations to come together.
Doors for the event opened at 5:30 p.m. and students with tickets in hand anxiously waited to hear their respective Chinese zodiac animal called, signaling them to approach the bountiful buffet including dishes such as vegetarian fried rice and Mongolian beef.
The banquet featured an array of performances throughout the evening, including hip-hop performances, a capella songs and traditional Chinese and Northern Indian dances.
Some of the event’s performances highlighted cultural practices, including the banquet’s fashion show portion, which featured CSA’s female core members wearing qipao — Chinese traditional dresses dating back to the 1920s.
“The fashion show is a nice way of getting out of regular clothes and showing the audience the ornate and exquisite designs of our culture,” said banquet co-coordinator Alice Yu.
Since the banquet also seeks to bring other student organizations together, CSA reached out to UCSC Bhangra, a part of the Indian student organization. Bhangra members performed a traditional Punjabi folk dance.
“Bhangra is a folk dance from Punjab, which is in northern India,” said Bhangra performer Jaskirat Brar. “It started off mostly as a male tradition, where men would go to harvest festivals to sing and dance. Within the past 10 or 15 years, girls started dancing too. We have all girls performing today. It’s a super energetic dance.”
In addition to strengthening ties between other student organizations, CSA celebrated the close ties the members of the group have with one another by featuring a slideshow of their community.
The slideshow highlighted key events thrown by CSA throughout the year, including mooncake making, fall reception, bowling night, egg roll making and more. Audience members cheered for their friends projected on the big screen, recalling fond memories.
“My freshman year, I didn’t join any organizations,” Yu said. “I went home often on the weekends. I found CSA through Lucy. Everyone at CSA is open and are willing to take you under their wing to learn about Chinese culture. The one thing making people want to stay at CSA is just being open to everyone, whether you identify as Chinese American or are an international Chinese student.”
Attendees — including both CSA’s core members and many more who are occasional members — enjoyed the banquet late into the evening. Lucy Yip and Alice Yu, the coordinators of the banquet, stressed the importance of keeping the annual tradition going.
“CSA is really an extension of family,” Yu said. “Some people didn’t get a chance to go home during the Chinese New Year because it didn’t take place during [winter] break. This event is a really good chance to get together and celebrate with everyone.”