February Traditions to Celebrate with Your International Students

February, the shortest month of the year, can arguably be described as the month most jam packed with holidays, traditions, festivals, and observances. Marking these dates on your calendar can provide you with a plethora of exciting and fun ways to celebrate both American and Chinese traditions with your international students. Utilizing these holidays as an opportunity to learn more about both domestic and international practices can help provide a fun and intellectually stimulating conversation about different cultural traditions.

Kicking off this month is Groundhog Day, an American tradition where the beloved groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, emerges to determine whether we will observe six more weeks of winter, or see an early Spring arrive. This superstitious holiday is a fun, although meteorologically inaccurate, tale that has been observed since 1887, and can likely draw similarities to some Chinese traditions that revolve around animals dictating imminent good or bad fortune.

Perhaps the largest sporting event in the United States, Super Bowl LI takes place on Sunday, February 5th, 2017, and features the dynastic New England Patriots at the Atlanta Falcons. This is a great opportunity for an international student to revel in American culture consisting of great food, competitive spirit, and unyielding fanatical enthusiasm.

February 11th, 2017 is the Chinese tradition of the Lantern Festival. This longstanding and historical Chinese event takes place fifteen days after the Chinese New Year, and marks the end of any New Year taboos. Perhaps this is a good time for you to learn more about your guest’s culture? Help plan the celebration and partake in any events you learn about the tradition from your student. Remember, the Lantern Festival is held on the night of the first full moon after the Chinese New Year, and it represents the reunion of family. Do all you can to make your guest feel safe and at home.

Love is in the air on February 14th. Although Valentine’s Day is widely recognized in Western culture in most major cities, many Chinese students may be more familiar with the Qixi Festival (also known as The Double Sevens Festival). This holiday, usually observed in August, bears the most resemblance to the traditions of Valentine’s Day, and pertains to an interesting and romantic legend revolving around two mythical lovers. This may prove to be another great opportunity to discuss cultural differences with your international students, as well as one more reason to devour an absurd amount of chocolate.

Delve into some national history on your long weekend with Presidents’ Day. Also known “Washington’s Birthday”, Presidents’ Day celebrates the date in which our nation’s first president was born. Use this opportunity to swap cultural similarities of celebrated dates pertaining to historical leaders, or research together other cultures that exhibit the same practices. This may also be a good opportunity go shopping together and take advantage of some Presidents’ Day sales at the local mall.

Lastly, we have another Chinese tradition you can learn more about from your international student: the Zhonghe Festival, or the Blue Dragon Festival. This tradition, like Groundhog Day, is meant to celebrate the early signs of an approaching Spring. The tradition is meant to inspire good fortune for the coming harvest season, and observes hibernating animals awaking to welcome the warm Spring weather. Sound familiar, Punxsutawney Phil? Use this opportunity to learn more about your international student’s exciting traditions back home, and immerse yourselves in the celebrations and festivities that are occurring across seas!

February is also widely known in the United States as Black History Month, where many students around the nation learn about the heroic plight of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as a handful of many other brave freedom fighters that fought for social justice, desegregation, and human rights that made our country what it is today. This is an excellent opportunity to discuss historical figures with your international students that have inspired and created drastic differences for positive change in our cultural upbringing.

There are many ways to immerse both your international students and yourself in cultural learning this February! See below for the list of dates discussed in this post.

02/02 – Groundhog day

02/05 – Super Bowl LI

02/11 – Lantern Festival

02/14 – Valentine’s Day

02/20 – Presidents’ Day (Washington’s Birthday)

02/27 – Zhonghe Festival (Blue Dragon Festival)