Lunar New Year Festival celebrates Year of the Rat with Ratatouille-inspired showcase

VUCSSA, VUCA and AASA each host annual celebrations of the Lunar New Year that showcase cultural performances and art exhibitions. This year’s Lunar New Year Festival draws inspiration from the animated movie Ratatouille, due to the fact that 2020 is the year of the rat.

Students+paint+words+of+good+luck+at+VUCA%27s+Lunar+New+Year+celebration+Jan.+24.

Jenny Gao

Students paint words of good luck at VUCA’s Lunar New Year celebration Jan. 24.

Kleio Jiang

Vanderbilt’s Asian American Student Association (AASA) is hosting the Lunar New Year Festival (LNYF) Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. in Langford Auditorium. This year’s LNYF features 350 performers and 21 acts in a cultural showcase to celebrate 2020, Year of the Rat according to the repeating 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac system.

The Chinese New Year, based on the lunar calendar, is celebrated in many countries outside of China. In the past, AASA has themed its LNYF after the zodiac animal of the year by performing a skit related to the zodiac animal. This year, AASA takes inspiration from the Pixar film “Ratatouille,” in which an animated rat attempts to become a chef. The story told by AASA expands upon “Ratatouille,” telling the story of two Asian Americans who run a local restaurant and the challenges they face because of their cultural and ethnic background. 

“The skits are an educational and entertaining way for the audience to gain a new perspective,” AASA LNYF co-chair John Lee said. 

LNYF Art Director Khoa Nguyen organized a pre-dinner art exhibition showing project pieces made by AASA members as well as pieces submitted by members of the Vanderbilt community. 

“The art exhibition is a new platform for creative expression and cultural expression that is not limited to stage performance,” Lee said. “We envision this to be a standard part of LNYF in future years.”

So far this year, two other organizations have hosted events to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

The Vanderbilt Undergraduate Chinese Association (VUCA) aims to bring Chinese culture and language to all corners of campus; the culture team of VUCA prepares a Lunar New Year celebration each year. This year, over 200 students attended the Jan. 24 celebration

“I wanted to recreate the traditional Chinese New Year, where people gather to create a lucky and joyous atmosphere,” VUCA Co-chair Etta Wang said.

Activities at the event included eating Chinese hotpot, drinking boba tea, writing in Chinese calligraphy, receiving a Chinese bronze coin and watching the Chinese New Year Gala.  

“Recently, the coronavirus outbreak made the Chinese body very emotionally vulnerable,” Wang said. “Our community creates bonds to support the Chinese body and let them know that we are here for them. We are all here to fight any challenge that rises.”

Vanderbilt Undergraduate Chinese Student and Scholar Association (VUCSSA) aims to create a space where Chinese scholars can freely showcase their culture. VUCSSA hosted their Spring Festival Gala for the Chinese New Year on Jan. 25, which was hosted by six Vanderbilt students and filled with cultural performances.

“Chinese New Year has a significant meaning in China because this is the time for family unions,” VUCSSA President Alex Ji said. 

The Spring Festival Gala showcased dances performed by Vanderbilt students and local Nashville dance groups as well as traditional Chinese cross talk, a comedic talk show format featuring two hosts that is typical of Chinese culture.

“Our performances let the people here know what is most viral in the China entertainment back home,” Ji said.