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Drumming in the Lunar New Year

(From left to right) Tyrone Nakawatase, Garrett Nakawatase, Jason Kopec, Emily Lau and Max Honkawa pound their drums at the Chinese Student Association Lunar New Year event on Saturday, Jan. 30 in the Multi-Purpose Room. The drummers are members of the Seattle-based band Inochi Taiko. Taiko generally refers to a modern style of Japanese drum ensembles. // Photo by Christina Becker
(From left to right) Tyrone Nakawatase, Garrett Nakawatase, Jason Kopec, Emily Lau and Max Honkawa pound their drums at the Chinese Student Association Lunar New Year event on Saturday, Jan. 30 in the Multi-Purpose Room. The drummers are members of the Seattle-based band Inochi Taiko. Taiko generally refers to a modern style of Japanese drum ensembles. // Photo by Christina Becker

Members of Western’s Chinese Student Association, their families and community members gathered to celebrate the Lunar New Year with dancing, drumming and dinner on Saturday, Jan. 30.

The night opened with a dragon dance, a traditional symbol of luck, beneath strings of lights and paper lanterns. The Lunar New Year is celebrated in several Asian traditions on Feb. 8, which allowed event organizers to broaden the celebration to include other cultural groups.

“This event is unique because it’s Lunar New Year. Instead of just celebrating the Chinese New Year we are also celebrating other cultures including Japan, Korea, China and Vietnam,” Phillip Chen said. This was the first Lunar New Year celebration hosted by the CSA at Western in this way.

The sold-out event in the Viking Union Multi-Purpose Room incorporated both traditional Chinese performances as well as Western-style performances, contributing to the idea of different cultures coming together.

The WWU Hip Hop Association incorporated dances with the Chinese music, and performed a dance to Justin Timberlake’s “Take Back The Night.”

Planning for the celebration began back in September 2015, said Chen, president of the CSA. The night included performances from Franklin High School’s dance team, the WWU Hip Hop Association and the Uzume Taiko drum group from Seattle. These performances brought together different cultures with a Chinese dance group, Japanese-style drum group and the incorporation of Western hip-hop dance.

While traditionally Lunar New Year is celebrated as a family gathering, a little less than 100 Western students came together as their own version of a family away from their own families in order to celebrate the event.

Western junior Leah Allen said she hoped the gave people an awareness of the different cultures being represented. By being open to the community, the event connected students of all cultures at Western. Over half of the attendees were Western students. The rest of the attendees included family members and other members of the community.

“I think it’s extremely important that we have these ethnic student clubs, and I think it’s a way for students to come together and feel comfortable in their own skin and make connections with others,” Allen said.

The night also included a silent auction to raise donations for Jiangxi China Orphan Aid, a part of the nonprofit organization Altrusa International Foundation of Longview-Kelso. The organization works with the Amity Foundation in China and provides medical aid, clothing, toys, school tuition and more for children in 24 orphanages in the Jiangxi province of China, according to the nonprofit’s Facebook page and website. Their office is based out of Longview, Washington.

Justin Yang, a senior and performer for the WWU Hip Hop Association, said the event was important for people who have not had a connection to their cultural heritage. “It gives them a chance to really experience it,” Yang said.
The Chinese Student Association is one of 17 clubs in the Ethnic Student Center at Western, located in VU 420.

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