Members of the HWS community will celebrate the Lunar New Year over the weekend with a special event hosted by the Asian Student Union (ASU).
The Lunar New Year celebration will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 1, in the Vandervort Room of the Scandling Campus Center. The event will include a four-course dinner with authentic cuisine, singing, tea tasting, Taiko Connection drumming, a performance by the student a capella group 3 Miles Lost, raffles and a cultural exhibition. Admission is $5 for students and $7 for faculty and staff.
“This is a chance for students to experience a different culture, the food, the music, as well as the traditions of celebrating Lunar New Year,” says Jiaqi Chang ’14, co-president of ASU. “They will also explore what everything appearing in the event symbolizes, and they can also learn different aspects of Asian culture through our cultural exhibition during the event. Students will get a chance to experience how different it is from a New Year celebrated in America.”
The Lunar New Year, which falls between the December solstice and the March equinox, is considered the longest and most important festivity in the Chinese Lunar Calendar. Chang says that in China there is a celebration called the “Spring Festival,” which is held to celebrate the lunar calendar’s New Year.
“In the evening before the Spring Festival, families get together and have a big meal. In many places people like to set off firecrackers,” Chang says. “Dumplings are the most traditional food. Red envelopes containing money are given by senior members in the family to children, in the wish of good luck.”
During the days before the New Year celebration, Chinese families give their home a thorough cleaning, Chang says. “It is believed the cleaning sweeps away bad luck and makes their homes ready for good luck to arrive,” she says. “All brooms and dustpans are put away on New Year’s Eve so that good luck cannot be swept away. Some people give their homes, doors and windowpanes a new coat of red paint. Homes are decorated with paper cutouts of Chinese auspicious phrases and couplets (short phrases) that speak of ‘happiness,’ ‘wealth,’ ‘longevity.'”
In addition, Chang says there traditionally is a “Reunion Dinner” where members of the family, near and far, get together for celebration.
“The New Year’s Eve dinner is very large and traditionally includes chicken,” Chang says. “Fish (yú) is included, but not eaten completely (and the remainder is stored overnight), as the Chinese phrase nián nián you yú, which means ‘may there be surpluses every year,’ sounds the same as ‘may there be fish every year,’ since ‘yú’ is also the pronunciation for ‘leftover’ or ‘surplus.’ A type of black hair-like algae, pronounced ‘fat choy’ in Cantonese, is also featured in many dishes since its name sounds similar to ‘prosperity.’ Because certain things and/or food sound alike to certain Chinese well-wishes, the belief is that having one will lead to the other.”
Chang says the menu for the on-campus event has been personalized with the aim of making the food more authentic.
“The cultural exhibit is the other highlight this year,” Chang says. “This is a new part. We want to give our guests the chance to explore and experience different aspects of Asian culture. They can taste tea (Tastea), listen to K-pop, watch Anime and comics, receive red envelope and hand written decorations, and get to know South Asian culture.”