The UAA Confucius Institute is hosting an authentic Chinese New Year celebration, also known as the Spring Festival, for the Anchorage community.
A traditional lunar calendar determines the beginning of the new year which falls on the new moon between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20.
Annie Ping Zeng, associate professor of Chinese, serves as director of the Confucius Institute at UAA. She described the Chinese New Year as the most important holiday in China as well as in some of its neighboring countries.
Celebrations typically start on the evening preceding the first day of the new year and end after 15 days with the traditional Lantern Festival. Chinese people living abroad are keeping these traditions alive.
“A lot of overseas Chinese [people] celebrate that same evening by hosting different types of performances and celebrations,” Zeng said.
The holiday holds significance for historical reasons.
“China was a farming country a long, long time ago. People just depended on the moon because of the tide,” Zeng said. “That is why we follow the lunar calendar.”
As director of the institute, Zeng has designed programs to expand Chinese language programs in the UA system and Alaska schools. In addition, she is planning a variety of events bringing the Chinese culture closer to the Anchorage community.
The Confucius Institute has been hosting Chinese New Year celebrations for several years at the university. All students and the public are invited to attend.
Yunqing Wang, nursing major, will experience the celebration for the second time at UAA. Originally from China, she moved to Alaska about five years ago. Even though she is not directly involved with the institute, she often takes part in the events hosted by it.
“I would say Chinese New Year is just like American Christmas. In China, we would always gather with families and have… dinner together,” Wang said. “Because of the pollution, we don’t do fireworks anymore, but… it is really nice.”
For the festival, the Confucius Institute has prepared a varied program. In addition to games and acrobats, there will also be musical performances and dances.
“We have invited a professional performer group from China called the TianJin Performing Arts Troupe. TianJin is [a city] very close to Beijing,” Zeng said. “The Confucius Institute will also contribute a few performances, so it is kind of a joined effort.”
Although the UAA festival differs from the celebrations she knows from her home country, Wang still thinks that it is a good opportunity for both Chinese and American students to experience the traditional holiday.
“I feel like in America some people probably don’t even know it,” Wang said. “I just hope more people will learn about Chinese culture.”
Yuan Tian, guest instructor at the Confucius Institute, thinks that familiarity with the Chinese culture could be particularly beneficial for Alaskans.
“China is becoming Alaska’s biggest commercial partner right now,” Tian said. “[Knowing more about Chinese culture] could provide people with more job opportunities.”
The celebrations take place on Feb. 13 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the UAA Recital Hall. For more information, visit the website of the Confucius Institute at uaa.alaska.edu/ci