On Saturday, Feb. 6, an estimated fifty Union students attended a Chinese New Year’s celebration in Albany. The gala was celebrating the Year of the Monkey, which began on Monday, Feb. 8. This year, Union, along with RPI and SUNY-Albany participated in planning and organizing the event.
The gala was held in the Egg, a performing arts venue in the Empire State Plaza in Albany. It was held from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and featured a number of musical, dance and circus performances from a variety of different community groups. The New Year’s celebration is the biggest event of the year in Chinese culture.
Along with the large group of students attending the event as onlookers, a few students actually partook in two of the musical acts. There was also a Union emcee. Congressman Paul Tonko and the senators of the New York State Senate all attended the event as well.
Dr. Megan Ferry, an Associate Professor of Chinese and Asian Studies in the Department of Modern Languages and Literature, was among those in attendance at the event. “The purpose of the event is to celebrate Chinese heritage by integrating Chinese dance and song with U.S. culture. The students from the CCC’s [Chinese Community Center] dance and music classes perform Chinese dances and sing Chinese songs,” Ferry explained. “There are also dances to contemporary U.S. pop music and martial arts demonstrations from a local martial arts academy,” she continued.
Ferry also stated that she was impressed with the large number of students in attendance at the event, siting that she was particularly impressed with the students who took part in the performances. “The music performances were of high caliber and the emcee was as poised as any emcee we see today on China’s or the US’s gala shows,” she praised.
The Chinese Consortium at Union obtained tickets for students so that anyone interested in the event could attend for free. They also offered a free shuttle to and from the event. All students in Chinese classes were offered extra credit if they attended the event.
The Chinese Community Center at Albany has been hosting this gala for many years. The majority of those in attendance are Chinese members of the Capital District community, such as a variety of Chinese community groups.
“It would be great to see more students participate in the event, as well as attend,” Ferry mused. She continued, “This is a wonderful way to connect Union College with the Chinese-speaking community. Through participation students can come to know many professionals in the area (physicians, lawyers, financial consultants), as well as celebrate Chinese culture.”
Apart from the Albany celebration, Dining Services brought a taste of Chinese culture to Union in honor of the Chinese New Year. Egg rolls and dumplings, among other traditional dishes, were served in Upper and Dutch Hollow on Monday. Upper was also decorated with traditional decorations and monkeys in honor of the Year of the Monkey.
Jeff Kurto, the new Director of Dining Services, remarked, “The Chinese New Year celebration was a great way to introduce authentic flavors and celebrations through dining.” To this end, Dining Services collaborated with the Union China Consortium to form a menu that accurately represented the joy of food characteristic of Chinese culture.
Through this collaboration, Dining Services learned that dumplings were an important part of the New Year celebration. Kutro explains that to maintain authenticity, students from the Consortium met with members of Dining Services and cooked dumplings for them according to their family recipes.
By preparing the dumplings “according to authentic ancient Chinese customs and food preparation traditions and rgulations,” Dining Services hoped to honor Chinese culture while disseminating it to the Union student population. Kutro further emphasized the presence of Dining Service’s new “Ingredients Beyond the Plate” initiative in the Chinese New Year festivites.
According to Kutro, this initiative improves the Union Dining experience through the incorporation of five pillars: “Sustainability, Development, Wellness, Community, and Culture.” One of Kutro’s goals is to incorporate these pillars into every facet of Union Dining.