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Gainesville And UF Gear Up For Chinese New Year

Even though it is February, for some UF students, it is not too late to make their new year resolutions.

Based on the Chinese calendar, each year is associated with one of the following 12 animals: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

Monday marks the start of the year of monkey.

And at 6 p.m. Sunday, more than a thousand people will fill the Curtis M. Phillips Center to attend the Chinese Student Association’s Chinese Spring Festival Gala.

The Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is the biggest festival in China – with millions watching the Chinese Spring Festival Gala there.

The celebration at UF will include a special guest: University of Florida President Kent Fuchs.

None of the current officers of the CSA could recall when a UF president attended the celebration. Fuchs will speak at the beginning of the event.

“We are honored to have President Fuchs for our celebration, and it means a lot to us, ” said Yue Rong, 24, president of the CSA. “It shows that our school pays great attention to Chinese students at UF and the Chinese community in Gainesville.”

Rong said he and the president’s assistant, Shujun He, invited Fuchs to the gala. When he accepted, they taught him how to say “Happy New Year” in Chinese.

Rong said he hopes Fuchs will learn more about traditional Chinese culture and have more interactions with Chinese students after the event.

“The CSA New Year Gala is the biggest event for Chinese people in Gainesville,” Rong said. “We try to offer people the atmosphere of their home when they attend the event.”

Yangzhi Jiang, vice president of CSA, said CSA has distributed about 1,000 tickets so far. They plan to distribute 300 more before the event starts. Admission is free, and the tickets are first-come, first-serve.

The performances at the event will not only include traditional Chinese instruments, singing and dancing, but also hip-hop performances. The performances will include students from the Hua-Gen Chinese school in Gainesville, as well as performers form the Chinese student association.

Linfang Yuan, principal of Hua-Gen Chinese school, said 57 performers, including 48 children and nine adults will stage five performances at the event.

The school, founded in 1997, aims to teach students Mandarin Chinese and traditional Chinese culture. The school, which has over 100 students, will also perform its own New Year’s Gala at 2 p.m. Feb. 13, at Oak Hall School.

“The Chinese Spring Festival Gala offers a platform for children who live in the U.S. a chance to know about Chinese culture and gives them a sense of national identity,” Yuan said.

Chinese vendors in Gainesville will also help ring in the new year.

Yu Yang, owner of the Chun Ching Oriental Market, a Gainesville shop that provides Southeastern Asian food ingredients and snacks, said she foresees an increase in sales because people will be buying food to celebrate the new year.

She said Chinese people buy fish for the New Year’s dinner because fish sounds similar to “surplus” in Chinese, implying abundance. Yang said Chinese people usually get together with family and friends and share special foods based on where they are from.

For example, people from Northern China will make and eat dumplings to celebrate the Chinese Spring Festival.

“What’s more important than eating dumplings, is enjoying the atmosphere of making dumplings with family members and friends,” she said.

This year, English subtitles will be shown on the stage screens at the same time as the performances – a first, Jiang said.

“This gala is not only for Chinese people,” she said. “We want to make sure everyone who is interested in the gala understands it.”

Zhiming is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org