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Monday, September 25, 2023

Events

Celebrating new year superstitions


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Students, such as alumna Mai Nguyen, participated in lion dances to celebrate the Lunar New Year and observed family traditions to welcome good luck, fortune and happiness. | Courtesy of Mai Nguyen

When the month of January came to a close and February crept around the corner, Asian families around the world, predominately those of the Chinese and Vietnamese cultures, celebrate the Lunar New Year.

Themes of good fortune, happiness, wealth and longevity are represented. Firecrackers are lit, red envelopes known as “li xi” or “tao hongbao,” in Vietnamese and Chinese respectively, are exchanged, festive lion dances take place and a feast is shared to usher in the New Year of the Horse.

To prepare for the Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, many Chinese and Vietnamese families cook special holiday foods and thoroughly clean the house in order to sweep away any bad luck.

Traditions include visiting temple to pray for their ancestors or to receive blessings from monks. Apart from the usual traditions of the Lunar New Year, the holiday is filled with surprising customs and even superstitions.

Hotel and restaurant management sophomore Tai Nguyen shared his firsthand experience of superstitions.

“My parents make me walk through the front of the house during New Year’s, so we are the first one coming through,” Tai said. “I’ve always thought that was weird. And we pray to the kitchen gods.”

Biology graduate Mai Nguyen, who has participated in lion dances that are “believed to bring good luck to businesses for the new year,” shared similar experiences.

“My grandparents used to ask my older brother to be the first to enter their house on the new year,” Mai said. “They believed it would bless their house and bring them good luck. My mom also set up an altar for the kitchen gods.”

Biology senior Tina Le Nguyen said her uncle is the go-to guy for her family because of his zodiac sign.

“We always ask our uncle, who is a dragon on the Lunar zodiac, to come into our house on the morning of the new year,” Tina said.

Another common superstition is the placement of a table.

“According to my mom, we have to place the table and incense in front of (the) door to show our ancestors the way back into our home,” Tina said.

Some other superstitions include not taking out the trash on the first day, which is believed to wash away good luck and prosperity, and not visiting friends and family on the third day, since it’s a day prone to arguments. The seventh day is a day to celebrate everyone’s birthday.

Media production junior Lam Nguyen celebrated the Lunar New Year by taking part in a parade. Nguyen was one of the flag bearers and marched from Wilcrest to Cook on Bellaire Boulevard. The parade included floats that resembled dragons and traditional Vietnamese cultural items.

“Although some believe the Lunar New Year lasts 15 days, my family celebrates it in three days. We celebrate it by eating stuffed rice cake and going to the temple to bring in good luck,” Lam said.

“There is this belief that we’re not supposed to do or say anything negative during this three-day period, for it would bring bad luck into the home and family. We’re also not supposed to open drawers on New Year’s Eve, because it would bring in bad spirits.”

Petroleum engineering graduate student Kyo Tran said the Lunar New Year traditions are a hassle.

“There are so many rules and restrictions. I personally don’t believe in them, but my mom does, so I try to make her happy,” Tran said.

“I’m older now, so I don’t receive red envelopes anymore. But I was pleasantly surprised when my professor for my Vietnamese class had given us a ‘li xi’ envelope with a two-dollar bill. I think maybe this year will be lucky for me after all.”

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