Our Impact: The BAME Union & celebrating Chinese New Year

Check out the latest activity from the BAME Union, written by Sohum Pandya, our BAME Officer this year.

Written by Sohum, our BAME Officer

The BAME Union

“The BAME Union has been amazing for me this year when finding other BAME friends at Newcastle Uni, especially in the pandemic when it's been hard to meet people. It's great to have such a lovely community of people who are sharing their cultures and wanting to learn about mine, whilst also being so passionate about fighting racism and ethnic stereotypes!

It's been wonderful to be able to attend BAME focused events that include anyone regardless of background because I feel like it's a really open and relaxed community, not just aimed at one culture. It's also great to have an outlet and talk about/raise awareness for some issues that my other friends don't understand. I hope that when the situation allows we can finally meet in person and continue to create a welcoming space for everyone.

Ethnic minority students at Newcastle University need community and space for them to be able to express the issues they face - as well as celebrate their myriad of cultures. From informative posts on social media to holding spaces and creating a community on social media platforms for BAME students to organising craft boxes for the Chinese New Year, NUSU BAME committee has achieved a lot in the first two months of this year. The work the BAME committee has done so far has made a difference to the lives and wellbeing of BAME students by creating a culture of inclusion for ethnic minorities in NCL."

Chinese New Year event

February 12th 2021 marked the start of the well-known and traditional celebration of the Chinese New Year. As the Year of the Ox beginnings, BAME Union and Blank Canvas Society came together to host a celebration for students of Newcastle University.

30 free craft packs, consisting of an assortment of Chinese New Year themed crafts, were distributed to students across Newcastle. Within the pack, students were given a paper lantern craft, Fortune Cookie, a stained-glass Ox making kit, a red envelope and a Chinese knot decoration.

Customarily, Chinese New Year is celebrated at the start of the lunar new year which is symbolised by the beginning of a new moon. Unlike the Gregorian calendar used in the UK, the date of this festival changes every year but will fall between the 21st of January to the 20th of February.

During this celebration in China, schools and businesses will close. It is a time that many celebrate with their families, so this year has been particularly tough due to the ongoing lockdown. BAME union and Blank Canvas worked hard to recreate some traditions that take place and provide a sense of community during the Zoom Craft call.

“Thank you so much for doing this, I haven’t been able to go home for one and a half years now, and this will make me so happy”

People of all cultures were welcomed to the event to learn further about Chinese customs. A popular tradition is to clean one’s home in preparation for the celebrations. However, on the arrival of the New Year, no one in a household must pick up a broom as it is believed that good luck could be brushed out the door.

Additionally, adults’ gift red envelopes, known as hóngbao, with money inside to represent good luck and prosperity. Parades in traditional clothing are held during the 16-day celebration and ongoing firework displays are held as it is believed that loud sounds and bright lights will scare away evil spirits. Finally, the celebration is concluded with a beautiful lantern festival. Lanterns are a key component as they symbolise the hope for a bright future and good fortune.

“It was relevant to the week's event and it was nice to learn something about another culture while having fun!”

With traditional Chinese music playing in the background, the Zoom Call consisted of students conversing and crafting. Some decided to make stunning lanterns while others took a shot at making traditional Chinese knots using tutorials provided. Sophie Dale, the welfare officer of Blank Canvas, shared “Although my Chinese knot failed, I really the whole experience of celebrating this festival and I’m looking forward to hanging up my lantern!”

As the evening came to a close, students displayed their creations and took to social media to share them. A member concluded; “although it wasn’t the most conventional method of celebrating Chinese New Year, it was still a very vibrant and joyful experience.”