Chinese New Year Showcase Brought Home Closer for Chinese Students



Calista Huang Staff Writer

As an ancient Chinese poem goes, “A lonely stranger in a strange land, I miss my family all the more on every festive day.” I couldn’t fully understand this line until I came to the States as an international student. For international students, homesickness strikes not in the first few weeks, but whenever a traditional festival of our home countries crawls up the calendar. 

One of the most important and celebrated festival in China, the Chinese New Year, fell early this year on the 4th of February. On the New Year’s Eve, Chinese families gather together for dinner and exchange gifts. As the clock strike 12 at midnight, people decorate the first-hour sky of a new year with fabulous fireworks, driving the darkness away and getting ready for a new beginning.

But this time it was different for us Chinese students. Without the bustling streets, thundering fireworks, or the warm accompany of families, the New Year’s Eve felt just like another weekend. As a result, it has become a tradition for the Chinese student community in Philadelphia to host the Chinese New Year Showcase every year. This year was the sixth consecutive year. The Showcase was co-hosted by University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, Saint Joseph’s University and Drexel University, and invited students from Villanova University, Swarthmore College and Bryn Mawr College as special guests. 

The showcase was a refreshing combination of modern and traditional culture. There were the pop dance clubs from the four host universities that set fires in the audience, figuratively. Additionally, there were traditional Chinese cultural performances like the Chinese opera and Xiangsheng (also known as crosstalk), a duo dialogue or monologue rich in puns and allusions delivered in a rapid and bantering style. 

Applause, cheers and waves of laughter echoed in the auditorium as the performances went on. It is always an interesting challenge to adapt poems from centuries ago into songs with a modern melody, but the students in the showcase did an amazing job of combining the two elements together and brought out new sparks between them. The Xiangsheng performances from New York Shuimu Crosstalk Comedy Club was the climax of the whole showcase. Every line in the brief 7 minutes brought out the sincerest laughter from the audience and the lively atmosphere of New Year’s Eve.

Of all the shows, what impressed me most was a rapper from one of the four universities. In the rap lyrics that he wrote himself, he recalled his journey of leaving the protection of his parents and struggling for his own place in the world. Listening between the lines, the audience followed that he recalled his life story and his determination of going onward regardless of the storm ahead. In a broader sense, his journey from a willful boy to an indomitable man mirrors the story of every one of us. We all used to be the baby of the family until one day we had to grow up and face the world ourselves. We might struggle and fail, but that’s what growing up is all about. 

The three hours in that auditorium were like a quick homecoming, it brought us back to the familiarity and the festivity of Chinese New Year. It made up for the regret we had of not being home and celebrating the new year with families. It offered us a chance to appreciate our culture in a different context. It brought us home and brought home to us.