The Year of the Goat: Students, hosts share custom
Exchange students and their host families celebrated the Chinese New Year recently at Wesleyan Methodist Church, on Center Street in Bethlehem. The event, hosted by New Oasis International Education, Allentown Central Catholic HS, and Bethlehem Catholic HS, and also attended by Pius X Catholic HS students, provided an opportunity for Chinese and American students to engage in a cultural exchange and perhaps stave off a bit of homesickness the exchange students might have felt.
New Oasis International Education's mission is to improve the quality of study abroad opportunities for international students by bringing high school students to the United States where they attend high school from ninth to 11th grade.
"The students stay with their host families until graduation," says Tammy Becker, Homestay manager. "The students return home in the summers, but graduate from here."
Nine months is a long time to spend away from all that's familiar, and because the Chinese New Year, which follows the lunar calendar, always falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice, Chinese students studying in the United States spend this significant holiday away from their homes and families.
During this holiday, celebrants light firecrackers, drum in the streets, light red lanterns that glow in the streets, and hang red paper cutouts and calligraphy on the doors. The celebration's final day concludes with the Lantern Festival.
New Oasis International Education thought it important to offer an opportunity for its participating Chinese students to share their custom with their American host families.
The students arranged the program themselves. The Chinese students shared their home traditions, and the students designed the invites, organized the performers - including dancers and vocal performances, created a Chinese New Year trivia game, and planned a menu of traditional Chinese foods.
Guests were treated to traditional foods including nian gao, or sweet sticky rice cake, and savory dumplings, which are round and symbolize never-ending wealth.
Approximately 165 people attended the program, including over 40 Chinese students and their host families, many wearing the traditional red, which corresponds to fire and symbolizes good fortune and joy.
The Chinese year coincides with the Chinese Zodiac. The 2015 Year of the Goat festival celebration began Feb. 19 and ended March 3.