DAVIDSON — Davidson College students helped the community ring in the Year of the Horse on Jan. 25 with an event featuring the traditional lion dance, dumplings, origami and fireworks.

Members of the college's Asian Culture and Awareness Association and the Chinese Culture Club hosted the festivities to celebrate the start of the new lunar calendar, which officially begins Jan. 31. Commonly referred to as the Chinese New Year, the lunar new year celebrations take place in many Asian countries to denote the new cycle of moon phases.

The Chinese zodiac delineates the years by the 12 animals in their astrology interpretations — this year marking the year of the horse. Personality characteristics and life events are often predicted based on a person's birth-year animal.

Chinese Culture President Lincoln Davidson said the celebrations for New Years are the biggest of the year.

“It’s similar to our Christmas in that it’s a time to all get together,” he said. “There is lots of food, lion dances and fire crackers from 10 until 4 a.m.”

Asian Culture and Awareness Association President Elizabeth Shin added that holding the event has been a tradition at the college because it is a chance for a lot of Asian families to come together and gives them a rare opportunity to promote Asian culture to the Davidson, Lake Norman and Charlotte communities.

Festivities started with the traditional Lion Dance to ward away evil and bring a prosperous year.

“It’s to rid the room of any bad vibes and it’s a happy and joyous time to celebrate,” said Sifu Rick Panico of Hung Gar Kung Fu Academy in Mooresville, who performs the dance with his students throughout North Carolina. “For New Years, you call on the Lion Dance to bring good luck.”

During the ceremony, the three elaborately dressed lions are fed lettuce but eat so much they get sick. Tradition says that whomever it lands on will have good luck and wealth. Lion Dances are performed at many celebrations, including festivals, weddings and store openings.

One youngster enjoying festivities was Benjamin Jin-jie Mullis, who could be found at the dumpling-making table with his mom, Rita Mullis.

“We live in a multicultural society with a lot of cultures in close proximity,” said his father Chris Mullis of why they attended. Because Rita is Asian, he added, “This is a great way to connect to his cultural heritage. It’s wonderful for Davidson to host it.”

He said their family in New York usually goes to the Chinatown celebrations, but they were very impressed by pictures they saw from the Davidson event.

Attendees also enjoyed food, made origami and watched performances by Little Lotus Dance Troupe of Charlotte.

In one, young girls danced with umbrellas to demonstrate how they walk around town on a rainy day with their friends. In another, dancers performed a bowl dance from Mongolia. The girls balanced three bowls on their head as they emulate riding a horse. The dance is to show the juxtaposition the strength of riding horses in the fields with the delicacy and grace of carrying bowls on their heads.

“It teaches people who don’t know about Asian and Mongolian cultural through the festivals,” said Dancer Athena He-Demontaron on why she likes to perform. “A lot of girls in China are adopted here and it’s important to know your own culture.”