As the Meridian Mall at 1982 W. Grand River Ave. cleared out at closing time, the sound system stopped playing pop hits. After a deafening moment of silence, the sounds from instruments rose clumsily into the air.
It stuttered at first. Performers of the Lansing Chinese Christian Youth Orchestra were warming up their instruments. A quick tap on the metal stand by conductor Huaizhi Chen caught the band’s attention and the rehearsal started for the Chinese New Year celebration that would take place the next day.
This is the seventh year the Greater Lansing Chinese Association celebrated in the Meridian Mall this the holiday—also known as the Spring Festival or Lunar New Year.
The performers’ excitement was palpable, the room was buzzing to a feverish pitch with excitement and nervousness.
“My favorite part is bringing the community together because that is our original intention to hold the event,” said Yi Shi, the president of the Greater Lansing Chinese Association. “To show our culture and to promote the mutual understanding between Chinese culture and American culture is our goal, and I think we achieved that for the event.”
The Chinese New Year is set according to the lunar calendar, compared to the Gregorian calendar commonly used. The new year began on Tuesday, Feb. 5 and is the year of the pig. Twelve animals are used to represent each year, each with their own characteristics.
“Every animal sign brings a certain good aspect to the year,” said Shi. “If you’re born in the year of the pig, there are certain things you are supposed to do and traits you are supposed to have.”
Those born under the pig are known to be considerate, responsible, independent and optimistic.
The celebration begins at 1 p.m. on Feb. 10 with a parade around Meridian Mall, ending up at a large stage in the very center. The first performance is a dance by the Cornell Elementary School and Michigan State University’s Chinese School called the Dragon Dance.
“My favorite part of when I’m performing is to make everyone happy,” said Amber Naseef, one of the dancers in the Dragon Dance, which is performed with pole that hold up different parts of the dragon. One person holds an orb on a similar pole in front of the dragon, representing the pearl that it is chasing. Dragons are said to bring good luck and the dance helps thrust this luck into the new year.
Other groups perform in the celebration such as the local Tai Chi teams and organizations from Michigan State University.
The Jasmine Flower Dance Team performed a traditional Chinese dance on twotiers with some of the group on the stage and some on the ground in front of the crowd. Meticulous pink paper umbrellas twirled in their hands as they performed.
“My children took part in the celebration and feel proud to introduce their culture to others,” said Peilei Fan, one of the Jasmine Flower dancers.
The celebration at the mall had the addition of a raffle ticket booth and an activities room. Booths bordered each wall from the different organizations that participated in the festival. From calligraphy writing to Chinese checkers, the room gave patrons a taste of Chinese culture.
The Chinese New Year is spent celebrating with family, ranging from playing games to attending similar festivals to the one held in the Meridian Mall.
“Sometimes I get money,” said Franklin Naseef as he ran off to play with his friends. He had danced in the Dragon Dance with his sister, Amber. Red envelopes are given during the Chinese New Year to symbolize good luck and they often hold money inside.
“My favorite thing about the New Year is to see family,” said Raymond Naseef, father to Amber and Franklin and husband to Peilei. “We all get together and eat delicious food.”
The Greater Lansing Chinese association hosts an annual picnic around Labor Day. This picnic is to try and help the new international students and staff feel more welcome in the Lansing area.