CSA’s Lantern Festival warms up a rainy night

Guests at the Lantern Festival had a plethora of activities to enjoy and experience together including a photo booth and performances. CSA staff prioritized organization-guest interaction through the activities and raffles, making the experience all the more intimate. // Photos by Isabel Yang Student Publications

On Saturday, Feb. 11, Tech’s Chinese Student Association (CSA) hosted Lantern Festival, a celebration of Lunar New Year, for the first time since 2019. An RSVP-only event, Lantern Festival was planned as an intimate commemoration of Tech’s Asian community and its unity on campus. Despite the chilly rain clouding the unfriendly night sky, the Exhibition Hall became a beacon of comfort from the bitter cold as students and volunteers filtered into the venue. With the expectation of a semiformal dress code, it was heartwarming to see students dressing their finest, coordinating outfits with their group, and even donning traditional clothing such as the qipao.

Upon entering the room, students were immediately greeted by a beautiful display of glittering red lanterns overhead, decorated with fairy lights and small tickets of paper hanging from each lantern. These tickets displayed traditional Chinese riddles and their respective English translations, whereupon solving each riddle, students had chances to win raffle tickets. Students excitedly weaved through the room, stopping between the number of different stations that CSA had set up. Also under the canopy of lanterns was a Polaroid wall, where CSA volunteers took unlimited Polaroids for the guests to hang up on the wall and even take home after the event. 

Additionally, guests were given a chance to peruse the various activity tables and seat themselves before food began being served. First on the list was the professional photo booth, where students could pose in front of a glittering golden wall, holding up props to take as many photos as they wanted. After taking the photos, students could select their favorite four pictures and print as many copies as they wanted for their friend group to each carry a piece of the night home with them. 

Additionally, CSA had invited a balloon artist to make custom pieces for students including bunny ear hats in honor of the Year of the Rabbit and colorful balloon flowers for students to take home. 

Students could also choose to participate in a raffle, with each prize more shocking than the last given their value. The prizes included a Bluetooth speaker, a Polaroid camera, a Nintendo Switch Lite and Sony XM4 headphones. Some students completed enough riddles and bought enough raffle tickets to submit as many as 20 tickets for the prize they wanted most. 

The last activity to partake in was phone-charm making as guests could pick up readymade kits with thread, charms and beads to make their very own phone charms and even match colors and themes with their friends.

Given that the event was not open to everyone and operated on a first-come, first-serve basis (even ending up with a waitlist), the intimate nature of the event really shone through the sheer amount of work and dedication that CSA had put into making the night perfect. 

“The hardest things to plan were the venue and catering,” said Brittany Lu, fourth-year BA and the vice president of CSA. “Because we chose to hold the event at Ex Hall, we had to figure out how to work with both GT catering and the outside caterers that we wanted to use. We had GT cater our tablecloths and drinks and provide the staffing so that we could then use outside caterers for our food,” Lu said. 

In terms of the food, it was integral that it be authentic Chinese food hand-picked to be served by CSA staff. The menu consisted of fried rice, lo mein, egg rolls, popcorn chicken, mapo tofu, kung pao chicken and honey walnut shrimp, just to name a few items. Food was catered by popular and well-loved local Asian restaurants such as Bun Factory and Sweet Hut, with the outside catering adding to the polished experience. Food was served in an extremely organized fashion, with guests receiving color-coded wristbands based on arrival time which then corresponded to the order that food was served in.

Aside from the technicalities behind planning the event, the task at the forefront of every volunteer’s mind was how to make Lantern Fest a truly memorable experience. While the activities, food and prizes certainly contributed to that sentiment, the greatest contributor to the magnificence of the experience was simply in the Asian community at Tech coming together to share culture. As Lunar New Year is a festival that many different cultures celebrate at home, the celebration by CSA created a sense of home-away-from-home for many of the guests. 

“There’s a lot of cohesion, which is very cool,” said Julie Yan, second-year BMED, who was a guest at Lantern Fest. “I don’t go to a lot of really big events very often, so I think this was organized really well and was definitely very engaging. It’s just really cool to be in a space with so many different people and we’re all connected in some way,” Yan said. 

The ties between everyone in the room and the excitement for the prospect of getting to celebrate Lunar New Year with your peers was certainly palpable.

“I’ve celebrated Lunar New Year every year. One thing we do at my house is that China puts on this show every year that’s a big variety show and they feature so many famous actors, celebrities and singers and it’s four hours long, and honestly tonight is kind of reminiscent of that,” Yan said. As the performing acts began taking the stage, it was clear how Lantern Festival was very evocative of the CCTV New Year’s Gala, with the CSA emcees and performers mirroring the excitement and grandeur of the Chinese national event.

First to appear was Delta Phi Lambda, Tech’s first recognized Asian-interest sorority. Taking the stage decked in matching lavender outfits and tons of confidence, the dance routine had audience members giving standing ovations and roaring cheers by the end. Next was TBA, a band that performed in Mandarin, including a Mandarin cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow” and finishing off with an English original song, “Death of Me.” 

Additional acts of the night included Tech’s Taekwondo team which put together an amazing performance of synchronized Taekwondo routines which almost resembled performance art or a form of dance itself. The Dragon Flyers, Tech’s Chinese yo-yo club, featured almost a Cirque-esque routine with glowing yo-yos and dynamic formations. With Malibu Nights, a well-known band on campus taking the stage, the audience was enraptured. With her clear intonation and sultry timbre, Gabby Lee, the lead singer, performed “drunk” by Keshi, stunning the audience and leaving them hanging on her every melody. The last act to take the stage was GT Seoulstice, who had three performing groups and three respective different routines. As the fog machine behind the stage created an ethereal misty aura around the performers, guests cheered harder than ever before as Seoulstice performed the new hit “OMG” by NewJeans and the throwback “Growl” by EXO, to name a few of their routines.

To close off the night, the raffle winners were announced for the lucrative prizes. When it came to the winner of the Sony XM4 headphones, the winner and his friends let out deafening screams of excitement, the winner bouncing up on stage to claim the prize.

Overall, Lantern Festival was a massive success that will certainly live on in the hearts of its attendees and through the sheer cultural impact that the night brought to campus. 

“At CSA, we really just want to share Chinese culture with everyone through the traditions that we’re proud of, whether that’s Chinese yo-yo or authentic Chinese food or decorating the Ex Hall like it really was a Chinese night market,” said Helen Liu, third-year MSE and CSA’s director of communications. As the guests ventured back into the drizzly night, they certainly carried the camaraderie, joy and sense of togetherness that encapsulates everything Lantern Fest was meant to be along with them; with students excitedly chattering with each other, their warm breath billowing into the frigid air, the icy atmosphere felt oddly pleasant that night.