The Brown Chinese Students Association hosted its annual Lunar New Year banquet Friday, Feb. 9 in Alumnae Hall.
Typically observed in China and other Asian countries and cultures, the Lunar New Year celebrates the beginning of a new year on the lunar calendar and the arrival of spring. The dates for the fifteen-day festival vary slightly from year to year on the Gregorian calendar, but generally fall between late January and mid-February.
Preparations for this year’s event began in June 2023, when the newly elected executive board booked both Alumnae Hall and Askew Bar & Lounge for the banquet and afterparty, respectively. Later in the fall, further preparations were made to secure performers, sponsors and catering, with Co-Vice Presidents Sudy Qin ’25 and Evan Ren ’25 adding that the board was working in full swing even over winter break.
“We put everyone to work,” said CSA President Jocelyn Yang ’24. “Without them, we definitely could not have had this event happen.”
“We’re very grateful for our entire board,” Ren added. “They all go above and beyond in their roles.”
The banquet has similar programming to the annual Spring Festival Gala in Beijing, China: a variety show broadcast by Chinese Media Group featuring a wide range of performances including song, dance, skits, magic shows, martial arts and acrobatics.
Having grown up watching the gala on TV, many members of CSA expressed a wish to evoke feelings of nostalgia through the banquet. “We try to mimic it as much as possible (and) recreate what we felt as kids,” Ren said.
As guests entered the venue, they were greeted with a large spread of traditional Chinese food catered from Chong Qing House, a restaurant in East Providence.
The event kicked off with a performance of “Spring Festival Overture” by members of the Brown University Orchestra. The song is the first movement of “Spring Festival Suite” by composer Li Huanzhi and is commonly played during Lunar New Year celebrations in China.
Michael Fu ’25 and Catherine Jia ’26, the show’s two emcees, introduced each act together through short skits and puns.
“In celebration of welcoming in the new year, we have a night filled with food, performances and more,” Fu said, addressing the crowd after the first act.
“This year, as you may know, is the year of the dragon,” Jia added. “In Chinese culture, the dragon is an auspicious symbol of fiery strength and power.”
The show featured multiple Chinese and East Asian student clubs. Performances ranged from traditional cultural displays by Brown Lion Dance and Molì East Asian Dance Company to modern pop dance numbers by Daebak, Tempo, Impulse and Fusion. Brown Ground Breakin’ and Brown Aerial Acrobatics also performed at the event.
Singers performed well-known Chinese songs including “Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin” and “Hua Fang Gu Niang,” prompting many audience members to join and sing along from the crowd.
Among these performers was Tanya Qu ’25, who performed two Chinese rock songs with her band Strapless. Qu said she aimed to showcase modern Chinese music, as much of what is known about popular music in China tends to be on the traditional side.
“This is something that I’ve always wanted to do,” she said. “I’m excited to get to share this aspect of music and bring a band to the banquet stage.”
Finally, the banquet wrapped up with a raffle drawing, which included gift cards of up to $100 for use at the event’s sponsor restaurants as prizes. Audience members were also able to bid in an auction to win a Lunar New Year-inspired dragon “birb” made by Birbs at Brown or, in line with a long-held banquet tradition, a Ten One Tea House or Ceremony date with CSA’s freshman representatives.
The auction ended up being a very fruitful fundraiser, with several competitive back-and-forth bidding wars resulting in sales of as high as $150 for the three prizes.
“Lunar New Year is a huge event not just for Chinese Americans, but for many other countries,” Yang said when asked about her hopes for the banquet. “We bring everyone together for a night … The main (reason) that I wanted to be president in the first place (was) to create a community and introduce people to Chinese culture.”
“Celebrating Chinese New Year has always been a big thing at home, and obviously my family is not here at college,” Qin added. “I’m hoping that attendees who come from similar backgrounds found a similar sense of belonging.”
Campbell Loi, a senior staff writer and copy editor for The Herald, is a junior from Syracuse, NY studying Public Health and International and Public Affairs. Outside of academics, she loves all things music and enjoys performing, arranging, and constantly listening to songs in her free time.