Students plan celebrations for Lunar New Year


The Daily Illini Photo File

The Alma Mater statue is decorated in celebration of the Lunar New Year on Feb. 5, 2019. Some students plan on celebrating the Lunar New Year by having a big feast and hanging out with friends.

By Jacqui Nguyen, Staff Writer

February 1 marked the beginning of the Lunar New Year on the lunisolar-based calendar for various East and Southeast Asian cultures. The Lunar New Year is a time for people to celebrate new beginnings, carry out traditions, eat lots of food and spend time with loved ones. As the celebration lasts around 15 days, students are finding ways to ring in the Year of the Tiger. 

Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year, is typically celebrated in large family gatherings. For many students on campus and away from home, the holiday may feel much different from the years they have celebrated in the past.

Cindy Phung, junior in FAA and co-president of the Vietnamese Student Association, remembered what a typical Lunar New Year, or Tết in Vietnamese, looked like before coming to college. 

“My family that was in Illinois would all get together and have a major feast,” Phung said. “My mom is the chef of the family, so she would make enough food to feed about 20 people, but we were a family of 10, so we would just be eating for like the next five days or so.” 

Phung said that being on campus during Lunar New Year makes it difficult for her. But despite being away from home, Phung is still able to enjoy the New Year with her roommates and others on campus. 

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“Last year, my parents and my roommates’ parents brought us a bunch of food for Tết, so we were able to celebrate together; it felt a little bit like home,” Phung said. 

There are a variety of Lunar New Year traditions with varying origins. While on campus, students try their best to continue these customs.

Melissa Hsiang, senior in Business and president of the Taiwanese American Student Club, always makes sure to clean her space before the arrival of the new year. Growing up, she would help her parents clean their home in preparation — a common tradition that has stuck with her throughout college. 

“Before the holiday comes, a lot of cleaning is done,” Hsiang said. “It’s kind of due to the idea that we should clean up and start anew but not during the actual holiday itself because we would be cleaning away the good luck that comes along with New Year.”

Even though it is a major holiday for many people in America, the Lunar New Year celebrations on campus look quite different in comparison to those in Asia. Since it is a nationwide holiday in East and Southeast Asia, students usually get time off of school to celebrate.

Unfortunately, the New Year takes place right as classes are picking up and students start having more exams. For Hsiang, celebrating the Lunar New Year to its fullest extent is difficult with classes and other obligations. Nevertheless, students still find a way to celebrate in some form.

Natalie Le, junior in LAS, is looking forward to participating in this year’s Vietnamese Cultural Night through the Vietnamese Student Association. VCN will be a showcase of various traditional dances such as the Lion Dance and fan dance which are also common in Chinese tradition. 

“I used to go to a Buddhist temple every Sunday for Vietnamese school and around Lunar New Year, we would have a festival and the students there would participate in dance practices to prepare,” Le said. “VCN reminds me of the Lunar New Year since we do fan dances which is what I did before coming to campus.”

Student organizations such as the Asian American Association and the Taiwanese American Student Club are also hosting events this year for students who want to join in on the festivities. On Feb. 3, there will be a collaborative Lunar New Year’s Celebration event in the Illini Union Ballroom between the Vietnamese Student Association, the Taiwanese American Students Club and the Asian American Association. There will be games and presentations on how different countries celebrate.

“We try to involve as many people as possible,” Phung said. “If people don’t know about the holiday and are open to learning, we are open to teaching them and sharing our culture.”

TASC will also be hosting an event on Feb. 19 at the YMCA featuring performances from a variety of student organizations. 

“Lunar New Year is our second largest event that we hold, so we spend a lot of time preparing for it,” Hsiang said. “We want to make sure that we are able to bring some aspect of the holiday and the culture to everyone on campus and those who are unable to go home and celebrate it with family.”

TASC is also partnering with the Asian American Student Housing Organization to lead a calligraphy activity as well as traditional games like Mahjong. 

“At the end of the day, this holiday is all about coming together to celebrate,” Hsiang said. “Even if you are away from your family on campus, the main point is that you don’t have to celebrate alone.” 

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