Alumni Plaza the center of the Dowagiac campus


Chinese dancer
Chinese dancer 2
Chinese dancers

Their clothing depicts more of a Mongolian influence

SMC Celebrates Lunar New Year for Spring

Published on February 7, 2024 - 3 p.m.

Southwestern Michigan College residence halls rang in Chinese New Year and the Year of the Dragon Feb. 6 with pageantry and an authentic tea ceremony.

Students learned from visitors from Kalamazoo and dancers from St. Joseph and Berrien Springs that among China’s traditional holidays and celebrations, none ranks higher in importance than the Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival or Chinese New Year. It marks the beginning of the year according to the traditional lunar calendar.

Part of the colorfully-costumed dancers came from CAGK, the Chinese American Association of Greater Kalamazoo, which invited the SMC community to its 43rd gala Feb. 10.

Representing CAGK were Vice President Yongjun Li and Public Relations Coordinator Chris Hodshire, a 1991 Dowagiac Union High School graduate and SMC graduate, as well as an alumnus of Western Michigan University and the University of Michigan.

Lunar New Year usually starts between late January and mid-February. In mainland China, official celebrations last for seven days as a public holiday. This Lunar New Year falls on Feb. 10, students heard at Mathews Conference Center West.

Li, born in China, came to the United States at 11.

“Harsh winter months are past and spring is near,” Li said. “Farmers are going to be seeding their lands. It’s time to celebrate. We promote China’s amazing culture for global understanding to eliminate racism and unnecessary bias and prejudice.”

At its core, Lunar New Year celebrations bring families together, which is daunting in a country as vast as China. It’s the annual largest human migration in the world as students and migrant workers rush home to their families.

“It’s like Thanksgiving,” Li said, “but traffic is a million times worse. It’s a difficult time to buy airline and train tickets. If you drive, you’re going to be stuck on the highway for hours. In the United States, we have 300 million people, China has 1.4 billion,” with 60-80 ethnic groups.

Feasts feature dumplings, spring rolls, cakes, fish and pork dishes.

A custom associated with Lunar New Year gives red envelopes containing money, usually by elders to younger family members. Red figures prominently in decorations and attire, symbolizing prosperity and good fortune.

Traditionally, families and communities burn firecrackers to ward off evil spirits.

According to Chinese zodiac signs, each year in the lunar cycle is associated with a particular animal. This 12-year cycle repeats itself. Years are designated rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

Legend has it that the Jade Emperor, ruler of heaven, initiated a great race. The rat won. The order of the other animals reflected their final finish in the race.

Lunar New Year is celebrated across Asia, including Vietnam and Singapore.