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Lunar New Year traditions celebrate unity, prosperity

Year of the Tiger: Lunar New Year

Gerald Sastra/The Cougar

The new moon marks the beginning of the Lunar New year, an important time for many Asian countries to celebrate and honor ancestors.

The holiday, celebrated on Feb. 1 this year, typically lasts for 15 days where communities gather together fulfilling new year traditions and preparing a large feast for everyone to enjoy. 

“It originated first in China thousands of years ago,” said assistant professor of Asian American studies An Nguyen. “The festival became a part of several nations in Asia including China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam.” 

According to Nguyen, although Chinese New Year is the technical name for the holiday, other countries prefer to give the occasion other names.

“The Vietnamese would prefer Lunar New Year and they also have the name Tet,” Nguyen said.

During the occasion, people visit the cemeteries of their ancestors in hopes of receiving good health and prosperity, according to Nguyen.

“We take care of the graves, report to them that it’s a new year and let them know what we have done in the past year and we ask for their blessing for the new year,” Nguyen said. 

Nguyen shares that midnight is the most important hour during the celebration as it transitions from the old to the new. At that moment loved ones sit around each other wishing positivity amongst everyone and elders pass out money in lucky red envelopes.

For many families not as fortunate, the Lunar New Year is an opportunity to be gifted with new clothes, treasures and plenty of food like sticky rice and boiled chicken as sharing within the community is encouraged, Nguyen said.

“The whole year we probably didn’t see a piece of meat,” Nguyen said. “ We grew up on cassava and sweet potatoes but Tet is the time we have meat. Our parents made sure that we have something new in the new year.” 

Another aspect of the holiday is the rotation of 12 animals the Chinese zodiac to represent each year. This year is the Year of the Tiger.

Students who celebrate the new year get ready for family traditions and look forward to experiencing the deeper meaning of it.

“We gather with family and on the new year we have a reunion dinner,” said psychology sophomore Yinyu Du. “We eat food that symbolizes things like this dessert called tangyuan. It represents family all together because of the ball shape.”

Although commemorating the Lunar New Year has differences throughout Asian communities, Nguyen said the significance of this time of year is similar.

“It’s all about sharing and caring with everyone rather than one family sitting together,” Nguyen said. “It’s more of a collective effort of a community.”

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