The smell of dumplings fills the air, while floured hands delicately pinch the dough enclosing the delicious meat and vegetable recipe. Mandarin flows in and out of the conversation among the sounds of laughter, ping-pong and guitar.
Chinese New Year came early this year and did not go unnoticed in Siloam Springs.
For 2014, the Lunar New Year began on Jan. 31 and will end with a spring festival coincidentally on Valentine’s Day. Freshman Anne Clemenger, raised 18 years of her life in Beijing explained that Chinese New Year lasts 15 days.
“It was so nice to be reminded that there are other people that understand my background and go through the same thing during this time of the year,” Clemenger said after she attended her first a Chinese New Year celebration in America, hosted by engineering and construction management professor, Tim Gilmour.
“New Year’s Eve is a big celebration back home. It’s like Christmas Day for us,” Clemenger said. “During the whole season they always visit each other and share time drinking and eating meals together, which is a lot of what the holiday is about for me.”
Living with a Chinese roommate in college and visiting China three different times inspired Gilmour to host his own Chinese.
“I like to provide a place where international students don’t have to feel lonely during [a] time when all their friends back home are getting together. They can feel like they have a place to go to,” Gilmour said.
A traditional Chinese New Year celebration includes making jiaozi and Chinese dumplings, shooting off fireworks and gathering with family.
“Originally, fireworks were set off to scare away evil spirits,” said Clemenger. “The louder the firecrackers, the better to chase away the demons.”
Gilmour also acknowledged the superstitions that come with Chinese New Year traditions, such as the zodiac calendar animals, ideas about ‘good luck’ and making money.
“I kind of reject the superstitious ideas, as it is more an occasion to get together and fellowship,” Gilmour said. Gilmour said he views all holidays as a means of bringing Christians and non-Christians together.
“The love of Christ can shine out to those people who don’t know Jesus and attract them,” Gilmour said.
While most Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day or “Singles Awareness Day” tomorrow, the sky will be full of lanterns as China celebrates the spring festival that marks the end of the Lunar New Year celebrations.