Thursday, February 25, 2010

Chinese New Year Celebration

The Chinese New Year celebration this past weekend was very entertaining. There were displays of traditional Chinese dance, music and art among many other forms of artistic and creative expression. While the various forms of entertainment were very unique and engaging, I found the racial makeup of the audience and participants particularly interesting. Although this was specifically a Chinese festival, there were black and white audience members, as well as others from the many different countries in Asia. Similarly, the music, dance, and tai chi groups were made up of members from various ethnic backgrounds. This was not only visually interesting but it also highlighted the power of racial and cultural diversity. While everyone was different, racially, they were able to come together in celebration of a common festival. Everyone contributed, and there was essentially unity in diversity.

Coming to this festival, as a non-Asian, I felt that the event made the Chinese culture more familiar and accessible for people of other races and ethnicities. Often, unfamiliar cultures are seen as foreign and, in many ways, frightening and strange, but this event made it easier to understand aspects of Chinese culture, because unusual traditions or customs were introduced in more familiar ways. For example, they presented very ornate and theatrical costumes, traditional Chinese styles that seemed unusual to the average non-Asian viewer. The fact that these outfits were presented in a fashion show, made it more comprehensible to the audience members. In addition, the Chinese language is a very mysterious and intriguing aspect of the Chinese culture and by having a table where the audience could have their names written in Chinese was a very clever way of introducing the Chinese language in a more familiar, less intimidating way. Overall, the event was well attended and very well executed and I thought the festival was successful at giving the audience a sample of Chinese culture and tradition.

Chinese New Year

I also didn’t really know what to expect when attending the Chinese New Year Celebration. I had friends that were involved in planning the celebration and have been for the past few years, but they didn’t talk much about it and I had no idea what I would see when I came to the mall. I walked in to see many more people than I expected, and I thought it was great that they sectioned off the whole section of the mall for this. To me, it seemed like the CSA and the two that announced placed a pretty big emphasis on a juxtaposition of American culture as well as their Asian heritage which I think really speaks to the notion of “Asian American”. Some were dressed in more traditional attire while some were dressed in contemporary tshirt and jeans. In this same vein, I thought it was very cool that the two announcers spoke in both English and (I’m guessing) Mandarin. This may have been for the simple fact that some attendees may only be Chinese-speaking but I find that hard to believe in today’s society. So I interpreted this choice as a way to include the influence from both cultures into the celebration. Those of Asian descent could experience the announcements of the program in English, as well as experiencing it in their native cultural language, which I also thought contributed a lot to the Asian American notion.
Another thing that I thought was very cool was the performance by the little girls from the Charlottesville Chinese dance school. They were dressed very traditionally including their hair, and they performed their dance using pink fans, which is very traditionally Chinese. I found it fascinating to watch their parents and see how proud they looked to see their children taking part in an event reflecting their cultural roots. From watching all of these events, especially this performance, I realized how important the juxtaposition of these two cultures, American and Chinese, are to most of these people. They take pride in the roots from which they come and also embrace aspects of American culture. It was definitely a new experience for me to see all of these things coming together in one place and I thought it was great. The program did a great job at bringing in elements of both, really emphasizing this “Asian American” feel.