Celebrating the Year of the Rabbit on Thursday, February 17, performers at CSUSM won't be hopping, but rather dancing the traditional Chinese lion dance to summon prosperity and good fortune for the coming year. Festivities will take place at noon on University Plaza.

The traditional Chinese lion dance, which will be performed on campus by the San Diego Lucky Lion Dancers, is an elaborate martial arts ritual involving mythical lion costumes that are used to frighten away evil spirits and bring good fortune.

In Chinese culture, there are many stories about the origin of the lion dance. According to one popular mythology, thousands of years ago a small Chinese village was threatened by the fierce, evil spirit named Nien, which is pronounced similarly to the Chinese word, nian, meaning year. Terrified, the villagers called upon the lion to protect them. Unable to harm the people, the spirit left, but promised to return. One year later when the lion was nowhere to be found, the Nien came back. Desperate, the villagers created a costume and mimicked the lion, successfully scaring away the spirit. The villagers continued this annual tradition to keep the evil spirit from returning.

Today, the dance is often used to commemorate the start of the Chinese New Year. The traditional lion costume is constructed from paper-mache, bamboo, and colorful-patterned cloth with synthetic fur and bells attached. The lion is maneuvered by two performers hidden within the costume and is accompanied by loud instruments, such as drums, gongs, and cymbals. Event patrons will add to the celebratory commotion by popping red balloons, symbolizing firecrackers, which are customarily used.

“The lion dance is vibrant, fun, and entertaining,” said Marvin Gomez, vice president of the student-led organization Brotherhood Academics Prosperity Strength (BAPS), who helped plan the celebration and will serve as the event emcee. “It’s a unique and engaging opportunity to learn about the traditions surrounding the Lunar New Year, while also becoming more familiar with the some of our Asian and Pacific Islander student groups on campus.”

The elaborate festivities will celebrate the Year of the Rabbit, which began on February 3, putting an end to the bold and ferocious Year of the Tiger. The Rabbit is the fourth animal sign in the 12-year Chinese zodiac and, according to Chinese tradition, is believed to bring good luck and peace throughout the year.

A collective campus event, CSUSM’s Lunar New Year Celebration is sponsored by the university’s Arts & Lectures program in partnership with BAPS, the Asian Pacific Islander Faculty & Staff Association, and the University Student Union Advisory Board – Clarke Activities Team.

Following the lion dance, performers will share about the significance and community impact of this cultural art form in both China and the United States. Guests will also have the opportunity to enjoy Chinese cuisine.

“At Cal State San Marcos, our campus truly values its cultural diversity,” said CSUSM Physics Professor Dr. Stephen Tsui, a member of the Asian Pacific Islander Faculty & Staff Association (APIFSA). “APIFSA is excited to co-sponsor the Lunar New Year event, bringing a piece of our Asian and Pacific Islander heritage to the university campus to share and celebrate with everyone.”

The traditional Chinese lion dance, which will be performed on campus by the San Diego Lucky Lion Dancers, is an elaborate martial arts ritual involving mythical lion costumes that are used to frighten away evil spirits and bring good fortune.