Despite the common notion that Thanksgiving is more or less an American holiday, there are other cultures that invest in similar practices of joining together and appreciating life’s blessings, such as the Chinese. The Chinese Student Scholar Association (CSSA) is happily bringing that celebrated tradition to UC Davis.
The CSSA will be putting on its very own mid-Autumn Festival, the second-largest celebrated festival in China, at Freeborn Hall on Oct. 3 from 7 to 10 p.m.
The program will include singing, dancing, magic shows and, of course, xiangsheng. This unique Chinese cultural gem is roughly the equivalent of our nightly talk shows. The short comedy includes two speakers talking in a rehearsed dialogue about current events and relevant issues.
“It’s an important day in Chinese culture and family reunions, much like the American Thanksgiving,” said Xiang Lu, who organizes services within the organization. “We wanted to honor that tradition for our international students and allow them to make friends in the beginning of the school year.”
The CSSA is the largest undergraduate Chinese association in the UC system. It is an organization committed to bringing international Chinese students together, while acclimating them into their new American surroundings.
“Our mission is to spread Chinese culture to UC Davis and to have a communication between the Chinese students and other UC Davis students – to show America the value of Chinese culture and to promote those communications,” Lu said.
Even though this festival is one of their biggest events, the members of CSSA also apply themselves in a lot of daily practical uses. “We organize buses to pick up new students from the airport, and also take them shopping occasionally for those without a car,” said Guanyao Huang, president of CSSA.
Because this is the organization’s 10th year, they have decided to take a little artistic license with this year’s program.
“We have a really different program this year. We have incorporated a lot more modern Chinese traditions, with the older traditions as well, and some Western entertainment,” Lu said.
Members of the CSSA will participate in all of the performances. Because they have at least 1,000 members, they had to audition. Each of the 10 programs required at least 10 performances, resulting in more than 300 people auditioning.
“Eventually we chose about 100 performers, and about another 200 volunteered to man backstage,” Lu said.
Even with all of the voluntary help, it still took about three months to organize and prepare for the event.
“The hardest part was communication. There were a lot of people involved, so there were some errors, but for most part things ran very smoothly,” Huang said.
Despite those minimal setbacks, the CSSA strongly believes this will be their best festival yet, and encourage people of all nationalities to embrace the celebration.
“We feel it is also our responsibility to organize the service to reach out to American culture,” said Qi Mo, CSSA’s director of services. “We made sure to include activities that will accomplish this.”
For this year’s festival, all of the performances will be in Chinese and English, and Freeborn will also record the festival in its entirety.
“It’s very Americanized, even with the blend of traditional Chinese performances,” Lu said. “We wanted a more diverse show to appeal to Chinese and English audiences.”
“We really want to show Americans things more related to our newer culture, not just the older traditions, and that we are not behind the times,” Mo added.
The show has already sold 1,200 tickets and is expected to sell out. Tickets are available at the Freeborn Hall box office and are $6 for students, or $4 for a group of eight or more.
BRITTANY PEARLMAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.