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Chinese student group celebrates new year

Jan. 27, 2004

By Yuan Sheng, reporter

The Chinese Students and Scholars Association at Baylor sponsored a celebration Friday for the Lunar New Year at the Wesley Foundation.

Celebrants started the event by making dumplings. Eating dumplings on the Lunar New Year's eve is a tradition in Northern China, while in Southern China, people usually eat rice cakes.

The two kinds of food are chosen because of their auspicious pronunciations. In the making of dumplings, people must knead the dough. The word 'knead' has the same pronunciation as 'get together' and 'peace' in Chinese.

Rice cake is pronounced as 'Nian Gao' in Chinese. 'Nian' means 'year,' and 'Gao' means 'higher.' So 'Nian Gao' means making progress year-by-year.

The usual steps of making dumplings include kneading the dough, preparing the filling, rolling the dumping wrappers and folding the dumplings.

Students were divided into several groups to complete different steps, and after three hours, people started to boil dumplings in water and eat.

'So delicious!' Xiaojian Xu, a Chinese graduate student, said. 'I hadn't eaten any dumplings since I came to the United States last fall. The taste reminds me of my home.'

'At home, we usually hide a coin in one of the dumplings,' Xu said. 'The person who finds the coin will have a good fortune in the new year.'

Celebrants did not buy any fireworks for the event due to a limited budget, but new-year fireworks are traditional.

According to the legend, a long time ago, a monster called 'Nian' came to hunt people at the last night of every lunar year. One year it was discovered that Nian had a fear of red color and loud noise. So everyone posted red paper couplets on doors and windows and set off firecrackers to scare the monster away. Since then, the practice is carried on from generation to generation.

About 40 people attended the celebration, including several U.S. students and administrators.

'Oh, [the celebration] is wonderful!' Beth Walker, adviser for campus and community involvement, said. 'So much fun, spirit and laughter.'

After eating dumplings and electing new officials for the Chinese student association, some students went to the Baptist Student Center and watched a film, The Cross -- Jesus in China. The movie presents the internal world of the contemporary Chinese Christians of all walks of life.

'The Chinese New Year is so important because it represents the start of the spring and brings people new hope,' Dongwu Li, a Chinese graduate student who arranged the showing of the movie, said.