OGDEN -- Close to a thousand people crowded into Weber State's Shepherd Union ballrooms Friday at a belated birthday party for the Year of the Rabbit.
WSU's second annual Chinese New Year's celebration was bursting at the seams, with 600 seats set up and additional people lining the walls to watch traditional Chinese music, song and dance.
After the program, the crowds visited booths to learn their Chinese zodiac signs, practice calligraphy or paper cutting, make a paper fan, admire martial arts weapons or sample egg rolls, fried wontons, rice and other fare donated by Golden Dynasty restaurant.
Rand Briem, of Ogden, drove to WSU to join in the festivities.
"It sounded like it would be interesting, and it was free," Briem said with a laugh.
"I've been to the Far East a couple of times, long ago, and I thought I would see what they were doing. It's probably very important to understand the culture that owns most of our national debt."
Dawn Christensen came up to see son Cade perform with first- and second-graders from Uintah Elementary School's Chinese-language immersion program.
"All the children were so awesome," Christensen said. "I thought it was so fun to see how much they have learned."
Stewart Christensen said learning Chinese is preparing his son for life in a changing world.
"China is a big part of our future. It's so great to see second-graders converse in Chinese."
Cade has even taught his parents a few words of Chinese.
"They don't really say it exactly right," he said. "It's easier when you are young."
Becky Lewis, of Layton, said she came to the event to celebrate another culture.
"The world is getting smaller," she said.
"Differences are what make the world a rich place. There's always something to learn, something new to experience, if you open your mind and make the effort."
The audience was crowded with proud Uintah parents, Chinese college students, families of Chinese descent, Utah parents of children adopted from China and the general public.
Everyone seemed to enjoy the show, which included a Salt Lake City Boy Scouts performance of the Lion Dance, believed in China to ensure good luck for the new year.
The celebration was sponsored by WSU's Chinese Club, directed by Melissa Pittman, a Weber State Chinese instructor and a native of Taiwan.
"We want to bring Chinese culture onto campus, not just for students and faculty," she said. "We would like to extend it to the community, too. That's our main goal, to bring Chinese culture into the Ogden area.
"With so many Chinese people in America, and so many Americans doing business with Chinese people or working for companies in China, to know about the Chinese culture creates understanding, and helps in business dealings.
"It opens up a conversation right there. It's very useful to have knowledge of other cultures."
Pittman said she always checks out her Chinese horoscope for the new year, although she doesn't take it nearly as seriously as the average person in China does, she said.
According to traditional beliefs, what the Year of the Rabbit holds for people depends on the animal sign under which they were born.
But overall, Pittman said, Chinese astrologers predict the Year of the Rabbit, which began Thursday, to be one of calm and introspection, good for family relationships and harmony.
It should be a positive money year for most, Pittman said, and may hold a little less drama and ferocity than did 2010, the Year of the Tiger.