On February 1, the Asian Student Association (ASA) and Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) partnered to host a Lunar New Year celebration, complete with traditional snacks and activities to celebrate the various cultures involved. The Lunar New Year is widely celebrated throughout East and Southeast Asia. It has many monikers in different cultures, such as Chinese New Year or Chunjie in China, Tet in Vietnamese, and Solnal in Korean. Depending on each country’s traditions, communities celebrate with family gatherings and lots of food. For example, a common tradition in China is to wear red for good luck and to receive red envelopes of money from relatives.
The event, while focused on Lunar New Year celebrations, also sought to embrace the diversity of East and Southeast Asia. Board members from both affinity groups began with a presentation on different countries’ styles of celebrating Lunar New Year, focusing on differences in traditions, foods, clothes, and languages. Afterwards, students engaged in a traditional Vietnamese betting game called bầu cua cá cọp (“squash-crab-fish-tiger”) or bầu cua tôm cá (“squash-crab-shrimp-fish”) for prizes like candy and traditional red envelopes with money enclosed.
Afterwards, board members brought a variety of Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese snacks. ASA board member Esther Yang (’23) added, “I personally was able to share some Lunar New Year greetings in Korean, along with the special tradition of eating tteokguk, a sliced rice cake soup that represents the coming of the new year.”
Board members for both ASA and VSA decided to organize the event because of the cultural and traditional significance of the holiday, as many Asian countries treat this date as the formal new year instead of the Western celebration on January 1. These affinity groups first began meeting weeks in advance, discussing each of their individual experiences with Lunar New Year. Board members then began formulating technical details by researching New Year traditions from every East and Southeast Asian country to ensure that the food and games shared were representative of the diversity in Asian traditions.
“We thought that bringing the student body together to celebrate would be an energizing way to kick off Lunar New Year,” noted VSA board member Emily Dang (’23). She was excited to plan an event “connecting students who wish to share their culture together, teaching those who have never experienced or heard about our experiences, and just meeting up to play some games and share snacks with friends.”
Yang stated that her “favorite part of the event [was] that students from different Asian cultures had the opportunity to share with each other how their culture or family celebrate the Lunar New Year.” Oftentimes, Asian traditions are reduced to being called ambiguously Asian without acknowledging their specific origins, and this event provided a thorough exploration of intricacies between different countries’ traditions.
Dang continued that “Lunar New Year is a big deal to some families and I think that it’s a beautiful holiday with meaningful traditions that I would like to spread further.”
Overall, the event was a huge success and yet another exciting opportunity to celebrate the diverse cultures represented on campus. Make sure to be on the lookout for more celebrations from the Asian Student Association and the Vietnamese Student Association!