Hundreds gathered in Harvard’s Sanders Theatre Sunday for the first in-person Ivy League Spring Festival Gala since 2019.
The gala, which is an annual celebration of Lunar New Year hosted by the Harvard Chinese Students and Scholars Association, featured more than 130 performers across different universities. The event was held virtually for the past two years.
The gala started off with a dance performance, followed by a speech from Vice Provost for International Affairs Mark C. Elliott. Performers took the stage with a variety of acts, including hip-hop, traditional folk music, skits, kung fu, and acapella.
Yuhan Zhang, a Linguistics Ph.D. student at Harvard and the executive producer of the event, said that watching the Chinese Spring Festival Gala with family is “one of the most traditional ways to celebrate the Lunar Chinese New Year.”
She added that the gala was intended for international students who are unable to return home to celebrate and watch the Spring Festival Gala.
According to Zhang, the gala was recorded and uploaded online during the past two years of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The biggest difference this year is that we finally are able to welcome the audience, be able to interact with them, and see their faces,” Zhang said. “This kind of interaction and this kind of opportunity to have hundreds of people in the same venue to celebrate one thing — it’s very magnificent and exciting.”
Chaomei Wang, a senior at Brandeis University, performed “Can’t Take My Eyes off of You.” She said she chose this song because “it’s a song about love,” and it was slower than other performances at the event.
Francesco Efrem Bonetti ’26, a potential East Asian Studies concentrator who attended the gala, said he “really loved” the event, especially the traditional folk music performance.
“I really loved the songs they played,” he said. “I also already knew them, so it was very nice to hear them play live for the first time.”
Xinran "Olivia" Ma ’26 said she attended the gala because it was a “big part” of her Chinese identity and the traditions she grew up with.
“I’m from China — born and raised — and I came here for high school, and it’s just an important part of me,” Ma said. “As an international student, I think it’s a nice way to connect.”
Harvard Business School student and HCSSA member Yilun “Bill” Ding — who helped organize the event — also discussed bridging the gap between cultures in the United States and China through traditional performances at Harvard.
“I really liked the kung fu performance, because it is a traditional martial arts,” Ding said.
“I think it has a good mixture of the Eastern culture and the Western Culture — showing those cultures can coexist very well,” he added.
During the event, Elliott delivered a speech mostly in Mandarin Chinese, switching to English to acknowledge the “uneasy” relations between the U.S. and China.
He said he is determined that Harvard will continue “affirming the importance of collaboration” between Harvard and Chinese universities.
“Institutions of higher education have a special role to play — a positive role to play — in making sure that the connections between our two great countries remain strong, and that they are moving in the right direction,” Elliott added.
Zhang said she hopes the gala was able to bring people together to appreciate Chinese culture.
“For Chinese students and for international students or for students from Asian countries, I want them to appreciate the show — with curiosity, with memories related to their home country, with their childhood — and have a moment to remember and have a moment to appreciate their history,” she said.
—Staff writer Madeleine A. Hung can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Joyce E. Kim can be reached at email@example.com.