Under a full moon, thousands of lanterns hang for the annual Chinese Lantern Festival.

Taking place on the 15th day of the first month in the Chinese New Year, the Lantern Festival marks the end of the New Year celebrations. This festival originates in the Han Dynasty which dates from 206 B.C. to 220 A.D.

Centuries later, George Mason University holds its own Lantern Festival.

The event took place in the Patriot Lounge in Student Union Building I of the Fairfax campus, on Thursday. Students, faculty and curious passers-by enjoyed traditional music, Chinese cuisine, games, calligraphy, lantern painting and origami.

Graduate student Matthew Wang was teaching origami to anyone willing to learn the tedious art. A Mason professor paid close attention as Wang walked her through the steps of folding a paper crane.

“I’m gathering materials for my class,” she said, saving her finished crane to take to her Chinese class.

Wang is studying Computational and Data Sciences at Mason and is a first-generation Chinese American. Both of his parents are Chinese, and Wang’s father owns a restaurant. It is here that Wang celebrates Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival with his family.

“We usually have a big dinner,” says Wang, explaining that his family and his father’s co-workers enjoy the dinner together.
Every year, the adults at his family’s dinner give red envelopes containing money to the children.

“Anywhere from twenty to one hundred dollars,” Wang says. Unfortunately for Wang, the fun of this tradition has reached its end.
“I’m about old enough to do that, it’s coming out of my pocket,” Wang says, laughing.

Although lacking fireworks like the traditional Chinese celebrations, Mason’s festival went well, according to Wang.

“It’s a nice turnout. Everyone seems to be having a nice time. They’re enjoying the cranes,” says Wang, motioning to an assortment of paper figures on the table in front of him.

At a table littered with watercolor paint sets, students of many ethnicities painted colorful lanterns. International students discussed their homesickness and classes while other students compared lanterns.

Many languages were spoken at this table, illustrating what Mason and the festival are about. Senior Ribaha Farooq sums up the Peer Empowerment Program’s hopes for this festival.

“Our goal is to reach out to international students from other countries,” Farooq says. “We want them to feel like they’re home, so we do it every spring semester.”