Kean University hosted its very own Chinese Lantern Festival on Thursday, March 1, 2018 at the Miron Student Center Atrium.
The Chinese hold the Lantern Festival to finish Chinese New Year celebrations in an exciting way. Typically the event would have fireworks, dragon parades and dances, stilt walkers, tangyuan (rice balls with filling), and lantern riddle games. The celebration usually takes place the night of the first full moon for the year. For 2018, this day was Friday, March 2.
Kean's Lantern Festival began with a troupe of musicians clad in traditional red and gold Chinese costumes playing drums, gongs and tambourines from the stairwell. Suddenly, a neon pink dragon and a neon yellow dragon sauntered down the steps, into the crowd. The crowd stopped everything they were doing to watch the magnificent beasts. The dragons teased and nudged at audience members until they made their way toward the entrance doors of the Miron Student Center. There, they began an intricate dance together which eventually led to a solo performance by the neon pink dragon.
At first, it is easy to get confused by the complex costume. The glitz and glamour of the costume made it difficult to tell who and how many people were under the costume. Logically, the dragon should have been too large to be under the control of one man alone. Yet, the dragon seemed alive with its moving eyes and mouth.
Upon further observation, it becomes apparent that the dragon dance is being performed by two performers per dragon. Whenever the "dragon" would roar and stand on its hind legs, it was actually two acrobats impressively giving the illusion through flips and tricks.
To finish the dragon dance, the two dragons came together to stand on stools and hold banners saying "Happy Lunar New Year!" in English and Chinese.
William Harrison, vice president of Wenzhou- Kean University Student Association (WKUSA), explained the significance of the dragon dance and color red in the Chinese culture saying, "The reason the Chinese use red in everything is for good luck—especially in the Chinese New Year. They use red to bring luck in the forthcoming new year. When they do the dragon dance it also wards off any bad luck or evil that you also have. "
The dragon performance was a thrilling start to the rest of the Lantern Festival which was complete with a paper lantern customization station, lantern riddle game, Chinese character making station and a tangyuan table.
"I think that showing different aspects of different cultures, different activities, different foods and different cultural activities shows diversity within the campus. And so to have this event be in a common area such as the MSC is a great idea, and I think everyone really enjoyed it," stated Amirah James, a sophomore special education major.
"For the event itself, I am happy that a lot of people come to these events so that way they can understand and learn more about the Chinese culture and try different things that are not American. And so when they have that particular blend when they go abroad—if they go in their lifetime—they will be able to say 'Oh, I had that' or 'Oh, I know what this is,' instead of going somewhere and not knowing what anything is and not actually exploring and trying," remarked Harrison.
Kean's Lantern Festival, like traditional Chinese Lantern Festivals, marks the start of new experiences for many. It was an event filled with laughs and awe as people of all ages and cultures came together to celebrate life and prepare for a better future.