Although we may not get a day off for it, Lunar New Year is still a significant holiday for many UCLA students. In 2017, Lunar New Year falls on Jan 28, marking the beginning of the Year of the Rooster and the end of the Year of the Monkey.
Many people may have the habit of referring to Lunar New Year as “Chinese New Year,” but in reality, Lunar New Year is celebrated in Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean cultures, among others. Lunar New Year celebrations typically last for 15 days after the start of the new year.
Traditionally, Lunar New Year is celebrated by having a family reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve. Each culture will devour their own cultural foods while catching up with family members, some of whom traveled home for the holiday season in order to be reunited with their families.
When I was younger, my family would celebrate Lunar New Year with my grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. We would feast on traditional Chinese and Malaysian food, and I would receive red envelopes from my parents and relatives. The most exciting part about the red envelopes was counting how much money I would get.
Arguably, one of the most anticipated Lunar New Year traditions for children is the receiving of red envelopes. Parents, grandparents and other married relatives or friends give children red envelopes until the children grow up and get married themselves. These red envelopes are a symbol of good luck and usually contain even amounts of money in accordance with Chinese customs, as even numbers are considered auspicious, or lucky. However, the number four is avoided as it sounds like “death” in Chinese languages and dialects.
This year at UCLA, student cultural clubs such as the Vietnamese Language and Culture Club (VNLC), the Association of Chinese Americans, the Nikkei Student Union, the Vietnamese Student Union and others have organized events and activities to celebrate Lunar New Year.
On Monday, ACA and UCLA ResLife hosted a Lunar New Year Festival in the Palisades Room of Carnesale Commons. I attended the event with my friends as I was excited to do something festive for Lunar New Year this year and experience how Lunar New Year is celebrated at UCLA. The free food offered at the event was also a big incentive for me to attend.
Before we could get our free food, which included boba, we had to complete four Lunar New Year activities at the many activity booths managed by different cultural clubs. I made origami cranes, handheld fans, red envelopes and played a Vietnamese gambling game called bau cua ca cop (squash-crab-fish-tiger).
Besides the games and crafting, Hanoolim Drumming performed a traditional Korean drumming piece as well as a dance piece. TAU A Cappella performed two songs in Mandarin, one of which was by the famous Taiwanese singer Jay Chou. Chinese Cultural Dance Club and ACA Lion Dance also performed to entertain students while they enjoyed the free food provided by the food sponsors of the event – Koala T Cafe, Mandarin Kitchen, Feast From the East and Volcano Teahouse.
I thought that ACA and UCLA ResLife did a phenomenal job in hosting the Lunar New Year Festival as there was a good turnout and it got people into the festive mood. It was also a wonderful experience seeing how Lunar New Year is celebrated by different communities and cultures.
Besides this large-scale Lunar New Year Festival, clubs like Malaysian Students Association are celebrating the new year by having a gathering for club members on New Year’s Day filled with food and games.
Feast will also host a special Lunar New Year Dinner from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. with exclusive offerings on the menu this Wednesday. ACA Lion Dance group will perform during the meal period as entertainment.
However, for other students, Lunar New Year is all about the family. Michelle Vu, a first-year physiological science student, will be returning home for Lunar New Year to celebrate it with her family and relatives.
“Everyone will come to my house and all my aunts and uncles will wish my grandpa a year of prosperity and happiness and we will all have dinner together,” said Vu.
Tam Nguyen, a second-year chemistry student, will also be spending the new year with her family.
“Even though I have a midterm and a paper due next week, I am still going home this weekend for Lunar New Year because my mom wants me to do so and I’m excited to eat traditional food for the new year,” said Nguyen.
While some students who live nearby are able to return home for the weekend to reunite with family, many students would not be able to spend Lunar New Year with their families as it is not a university holiday. In my opinion, Lunar New Year should be a university holiday, as many communities at UCLA celebrate this festival.
Sabrina Liu, a second-year bioengineering student, will not be going back to her hometown in Texas for Lunar New Year. When asked about how she feels about this, Liu said, “I’m sad because it’s like Christmas but for Asians. I miss getting red envelopes and my family.”
When recounting her past Lunar New Year celebrations, Liu said, “My parents were in the restaurant business and they closed it down early and invited everyone over. We ate all the food and got red envelopes.”
As an international student, I will also not be able to go home for Lunar New Year. Even though I am not able enjoy home-cooked meals by my grandparents or look forward to hearing firecrackers go off at midnight, I am glad that I was able to do some crafting at the Lunar New Year Festival and to have experienced the event with my friends.
I’d like to wish everyone a happy Lunar New Year and may this new year bring you happiness, good health and good grades.