On February 2, members of our campus community partook in a graceful and wonderful event at the UNC Ballroom – the Lunar New Year Celebration. February 10, 2024, marked the new lunar year, representing the Year of the Dragon. To celebrate, some UBCO students and faculty decided to host a spectacular event filled with performances, entertainment, and games.

This celebration, which was sponsored by the Department of Languages and World Literature, was more than just an opportunity to socialize and be entertained; it was a chance to learn and take home some newfound cultural knowledge in the process. One such highlight included a Kahoot quiz on Korean and Chinese culture. The culture quiz was not only fun and competitive, but it was also quite educational. For example, did you know that the black bar symbols on the Korean flag represent the sky, water, earth, and fire? Or that the title of each new year rotates between 12 animals, which are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig? As a history lover, I learnt that the Great Wall began construction under Emperor Qin Shi Huang. During the quiz, we saw some prizes given away to the top winners. The prizes were red envelopes, but I could not tell you what was inside since I didn’t win. Traditionally, rather than gifts, red envelopes filled with money are handed out during the Lunar New Year. 

Photo provided by Ehlert

Other highlights of the event include the food and games. All the socializing and fun can leave you in need of some snacks. The event provided its guests with a selection of refreshments and pastries but also with traditional snacks to try out. The games were categorized into two groups: the Korean games and the Chinese games. The Korean games included Ttakjichigi (딱지치기), which is a game that has players throw origami paper squares on the floor to try and flip over their opponent's paper square. Another game was mugunghwa kkochi pieot seumnida, or 무궁화 꽃이 피었습니다 in the Hangul alphabet, which translates to “the Rose of Sharon (flower) has bloomed.” It is played similarly to the Canadian game red light, green light. Some examples of the Chinese games played were 抢凳子[qiǎng dèngzi], also known as musical chairs, and 击鼓传花 [jīgǔchuánhuā], which translates to Pass the Parcel and is similar to hot potato, played to the song “Fearless” by Jay Chou. 

Spectators were also entertained by Chinese song performances and a K-pop dance performance. If you were brave enough, you could even join in singing karaoke. Erin Sawicki, one of the primary student volunteers, shared with us, “One aspect of the event that had me worried was the final event. I didn't actually expect anyone to sing karaoke since it was a large task to perform in front of so many people. But to my surprise, we had several people ask for a song.” 

Erin and the student volunteers, under the supervision of Dr. Meilan Ehlert who is the student advisor for Chinese and Korean courses in the Department of Languages and World Literatures, helped bring this event to fruition, working hard since November 2023. Seeing the team’s hard work behind the scenes and final results, Erin shared with us her favourite part of the journey and the event.

“We had a solid plan, but some bumps in the road occurred, which the team came together and overcame easily,” she said. “The event had an amazing turnout of 80–90 plus people in attendance. The guests were engaged and enjoyed the activities. I truly want to emphasize that without the student volunteers, we would not have been able to make the event anywhere near what it was. As for my favourite part of the event, I would have to say watching everyone join in the games and the sense of community we created for everyone.”

If you enjoy Chinese and Korean culture or would like to get more involved, Erin shared various ways you can learn more. “My first recommendation is to check out the Department of Languages and World Literatures website, as well as the Vancouver campus CHIN and KORN classes directory,” she suggested. “They have a lot of wonderful information. There are also many online resources to learn more. Some examples being 90DayKorean: an email subscription anyone can sign up for that goes out every couple days on different aspects of Korean culture. There is a website called ChineseClass101, and they have a blog where people can read about Chinese history and culture as well. There are YouTubers who teach Chinese and Korean culture, language, and history. Podcasts and TV shows are a great way to learn as well. TTMK has a good podcast about the Korean language [that] I think anyone could enjoy. Lastly, engaging with Chinese and Korean students, showing up to events, getting involved with the community, asking questions, and showing genuine interest goes a long way. I have made many great friends this way. The world is our oyster, and there are so many avenues any learner can take in their journey. The most important thing is to make it unique and enjoyable to you.”

Erin, Dr. Ehlert, and the rest of the team hope to come back bigger and better for their next event, so make sure you keep an eye out in the next few months for more information because you won’t want to miss what’s coming next.