New Year event celebrates traditional culture of Asia

By Ashlyn Korienek | 1/27/16 11:05pm

GVL/ Archive Performance by the Toyoda Center of Aikido, MMA and Kendo in 2013
by Amanda Greenwood and Amanda Greenwood / The Lanthorn

Every year, Grand Valley State University hosts various cultural events that support its increasing minority population. On Feb. 4, the Asian Student Union presents a cultural experience that encourages all students to participate.

Located in the Kirkhof Center Grand River Room, the Asian New Year Festival celebrates the traditions of Pacific Islander and Asian American heritage with interactive cultural activities.

From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., students can expect to enjoy the rich diversity of Asia through various traditional cuisines and performances from Asian ethnic groups at GVSU.

In addition, the organization will feature a dragon dance, national dance, Chinese martial arts and a cultural fashion show.

Hillary Rentfrow, activities coordinator for the Asian Student Union, said the celebration will highlight cultures that follow the lunar new year, among other cultures.

“We celebrate all Asian cultures at our festival, so we are more inclusive to the community,” Rentfrow said. “The celebration is as diverse as the Asian Student Union is, and we try to broaden the definition of what Asian culture is defined as to the community. There’s quite a range of diversity.”

The festival is not limited to those who usually celebrate the Chinese New Year — all students are invited to learn more about the culture.

Although 2016 has already begun, the Chinese New Year follows the lunar calendar and begins Feb. 8. The Chinese zodiac entails it will be the year of the monkey, so the Asian Student Union will present a mini-skit describing what the monkey means in Chinese culture.

Leah Taylor, public relations officer for the Asian Student Union, said the fashion show of each culture’s traditional clothing style is her favorite addition to the event. She said door prizes will be up for grabs this year.

“The event brings the Asian community at GVSU together for a time of celebration among the culture,” Taylor said. “People will gain a better understanding of what the Asian New Year is all about. I am very excited for the celebration.”

The Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Asian Student Union will feature several events representing Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage throughout January and February.

“The heritage celebrations and new year event is a great way for people to share a part of themselves to others,” she said. “I worked extra hard into planning the food we will be providing for people to try, because I wanted to include many different cultural dishes not even traditional to the new year itself.”

Students are invited to join the storytelling feature, which will begin the celebration of the Asian New Year on Feb. 4, located in Kirkhof at 4 p.m., prior to the celebration. Students will share their oral histories while trained historians record and photograph participants.

“I think that it is important to have representation of the Asian culture on campus,” Rentfrow said. “The diversity of Asian individuals on campus has changed over the past few years. As little as that number is, it is significant to us and it should be noticed.”

For more information on the Office of Multicultural Affairs events, visit

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