The Home Away From Home
A student version of the world’s most watched TV event took place at USF last Friday, and I’m not talking about the Olympics. The Spring Festival Gala is China’s five-hour long variety show that is aired on the eve of the Lunar New Year. This year, it brought in over 700 million viewers according to CNN.
“Just like Christmas evening, the last evening before the new year, families would gather and there’s a big thing called the Spring Festival Gala by [China Central Television], so every family would watch that,” Huiwen Tan said, president of the Chinese Student and Scholar Association. “The show is just like the Olympics. It’s so important.”
A great population of USF’s international Chinese students weren’t able to return home for traditional celebrations, like watching the show with family, so the Chinese Student and Scholar Association organized their own Spring Festival Gala on campus.
Many gathered at McLaren 250 and 251 to take part in the spectacle. The conjoined rooms met their capacity with every chair being occupied by USF community members, and a crowd standing along the sides.
The Gala featured a lineup of performances that showcased Chinese culture and the talents of our Chinese student population. The evening started with singing by four CSSA members, each individually performing a classic and popular Chinese song. A rendition of “Ode to Joy” by a pianist and three violinists followed, and two students dressed in Tang Dynasty garb performed a dance from that era. The dance involved majestic and graceful movements by the male and female performers, and portrayed the ageless story of love and courtship.
Other entertainment included contemporary dancing, an appearance by ASUSF’s Men’s Voices, a hilarious round of charades which required audience member participation, and a magic show from USF law student, Yanan Zhu, who is also a recognized magician in China. Even though Zhu is a student of law, my mind was blown when all his tricks challenged the laws of science. One trick involved an actual bowling ball falling out of a seemingly normal drawing pad which only had the drawing of the ball.
Attendees were able to get a taste of China through performances and some sort of likeness to it in cuisine. According to Tan, Chinese traditionally eat “cha siu bow,” a steamed pork bun, on the new year. Of course the event was catered by Bon Appetit and they attempted their own version of the “cha siu bow,” which looked more like a taco than an actual bun. The closest we got to a Chinese New Year meal was that food was in abundance. Other items that were offered were “siu mai” (chinese dumplings with pork or chicken), potstickers, eggrolls, fruit, brownies, cookies, and chips.
There was even a giving of “hongbao,” which are red envelopes filled with money and given to family and friends. The “hongbao” only had one dollar bills, but the gesture itself was very generous. The celebration was grand and well executed by CSSA. While many Chinese students could not go home, CSSA brought home to them here at USF.