Global Celebrations Update
GEPP’s 2023 Lunar New Year Celebration: Connecting Communities Through Traditional Food and Games
Lunar New Year (LNY) is a time for bonding and celebrating community. To commemorate the Year of the Rabbit, GEPP hosted two events in partnership with Purdue’s Asian & Asian-American Resource and Cultural Center (AAARCC). These events brought together a great number of people through activities such as dumpling-making and playing games like pitch-pot, a popular game in East Asia for over 2000 years. This is the second year that GEPP & AAARCC have collaborated for LNY celebration, and it was exhilarating to see hundreds of students, children, parents, and grandparents from local communities come together and have fun.
The dumpling-making workshop was held in the cozy AAARCC building on Jan.24. One of the first things that GEPP’s new ambassador Ben Maxwell noticed at the dumpling-making event was that “it felt like a home. Everyone was so inviting and willing to teach me that I wasn’t even embarrassed for my first few dumplings to be globs of dough. I had never celebrated the Lunar New Year before, but just from this experience, I could feel the sense of community at the heart of the tradition”. Many students learned how to make dumplings from Sophia Qu, the new GEPP member, Rhonda Hann, and Tami Sells. Red envelopes and hand-written calligraphy of “fu” (meaning “good fortune” in English) were also prepared for students to take home as gifts, a common LNY tradition.
It was an eye-opening experience for everyone to learn something new about food, working together while embracing diversity and individuality. GEPP’s Graduate Assistant Carolina Gonzalez Canas beautifully summarized the experience: “While we were preparing the dumplings, I realized that they are not just food, they are more than just pieces of dough with a tasty filling. I realized that they are a symbol of love and togetherness. It was amazing to see a lot of people, some of us from different countries and cultures, around a table preparing those half-moon-shaped pieces. It was easy to imagine Chinese families together sharing stories and creating bonds while preparing the dough and the filling for the dumplings. It was very nice to see that even though it was the same plate, every person had a different technique for wrapping them, meaning that each family is unique and that each mother and grandmother has her own style… And I realized that when we ate our lunch that day, that plate filled with dumplings was not just lunch, was the symbol of our teamwork and all the good things we can do together.”
On Jan. 28, we set up a game called Pitch-pot at co-rec for Purdue’s Lunar New Year Gala. Challenging as it was, our guests were determined to win, and several players did so miraculously! Tami Sells said that “It was fun to see young and old alike determined to get an arrow in the pot!” The game was a huge success, in large part because of our passionate game host Edwin Kpodzro, who tirelessly cheered on our guests. Edwin clearly enjoys and knows how to be a good coach. “My favorite part of running the game was watching how people actively sought to improve their pitching style with every throw. Whether it was an adjustment of their grip position or a slight change in their projection angle, this game was testament to the nature of humans to strive for improvement.” Says Edwin, “From the sheer turnout to people cheering on the efforts of random players during the game, I was reminded that our community is better together. While there is always room for improvement, we can celebrate our wins and those of others while we forge forward into a future where we can share our cultures and celebrate as one people.
A sense of community resonated deeply with us all. Despite our differences, we can always find common ground in food, laughter, and traditions. Rhonda Hann, who attended the event, mentioned how heartwarming it was to see students from different countries bonding over food and laughter. What's more, Rhonda says, “the event also saw the participation of adults such as Pamela Sari, Director of AAARCC, George Chiu, Assistant-Dean of GEPP, Wei Qiu, Asia Pacific Programs Manager, and Jiayi (Sophia) Qu, Associate Business Manager. It was encouraging to see them interact with the students, listen to their stories, and even teach them how to make dumplings. As someone who was not familiar with the Asian culture and a mother of a college-aged student, I felt very included in the event and appreciated the opportunity to witness different cultures coming together.
The Lunar New Year Gala also featured a karate demonstration by Ben Maxwell and his team. Ben said “I could see everyone enjoying the food and games, just having a great time. It was such a great environment, and I can’t wait to celebrate the lunar new year again next year”!