DePaul’s 12th Chinese New Year Gala celebrates Year of the Golden Rat, giving hope to faculty, students entering the new decade


Mackenzie Murtaugh | The DePaulia

Three women sit at a table and laugh at the celebratory dragon passing by. The Chinese New Year event featured networking, games and a buffet, in addition to performances.

The idea of celebrating a rat is lost upon many in Western culture. Rats are the scurrying figures you avoid on the subway, the hidden creatures in the walls of your apartment and what one DePaul student affectionately called: “garbage squirrels.”

DePaul University celebrated the year of the Golden Rat on Friday with the 12th annual Chinese Lunar New Year Gala. Located at the Lincoln Park Student Center, the gala was co-hosted by the DePaul Chinese Studies Program, the DePaul Chinese Students and Scholars Association and the DePaul Chinese Studies Association. The gala featured networking opportunities, cultural games, an authentic lunar buffet and cultural performances by DePaul students. 

Through DePaul’s Chinese and Asian community efforts, the value of the mystical rat became apparent, most notably for its promise of new beginnings. 

The rat is the first animal of the Chinese zodiac and is seen as a sign of wealth and surplus in Chinese culture. The rat represents the Earthly Branch Zi and midnight hours, 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. In terms of yin and yang, the rat is yang and symbolizes the beginning of a new day. Yin and yang is about how seemingly opposite or contrary forces can be complementary.

It is fitting that the rat is to be celebrated in 2020 as DePaul students enter the new decade. 

The director of DePaul’s Global Gateway Program and rat zodiac, Gretchen Frickx, says she is optimistic for the new year. 

“You see DePaul putting on events like these, and the small details give me hope,” she said. “Like the placemats, plates and forks, they’re all compostable. I don’t know many schools that would take the time to do that while putting on a celebration like this.”

And the celebration has only grown larger. President of DePaul University, A. Gabriel Esteban, said during his speech at the event that DePaul is “a global university” with over 500 hundred Chinese students and 1,500 international students.  

Joy Fang, president of DePaul Chinese Students and Scholars Association, stated that through events such as the celebration of the year of the Golden Rat, DePaul is providing a space for Chinese students to celebrate their traditions as well as bridge the gap between other Asian communities. 

“As we grow, we’re excited to connect to other communities more,” Fang said. “For a while, the Chinese community has kept to themselves, but this year we worked with the International Student and Scholar Services to put on the event.”

The rat is considered to be the most quick-witted, resourceful and opportunistic animal of the Chinese zodiac. Not to mention the Golden Rat’s lucky color is blue just like DePaul’s pride colors. 

“Chinese people are very ambitious, but they put their energy and enthusiasm into doing hard work,” said Daniel Brown, a business major. “You have that duality of the spicy and sweet flavored presented in their dishes. I really appreciate the positive attitude culture and the Chinese fun-slash-serious dynamic.”

While many around the world are concerned about the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, DePaul’s Chinese and Asian communities stood in solidarity Friday night. There was only support and sympathy within the crowd.

“Hysteria is like the new thing,” said Doug Williams, local resident and attendee. “People are so willing to be scared. I’m kind of surprised they didn’t shut down the event, but I’m glad they didn’t. My wife and I have been coming for so many years now.”

Fang expressed her support for those in Wuhan, China. “One major thing we are looking forward to and praying towards this year is to stay healthy,” she said.

The Chinese Lunar New Year Gala and celebration of the Golden Rat can be seen as a promising omen for the Chinese community and students of DePaul. The rat reminds us to be resourceful in a time of crisis and to make smart decisions during the beginning of the decade. 

Facing the problems of 2020 can be daunting, but the Golden Rat might be the figure of hope that the Chinese and DePaul community need this year. 



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