By Sydney Leibfritz
Whether partaking in dragon mask painting, zodiac sign readings, coloring pages, or simply the buffet, Sewanee’s Lunar New Year celebration offered all attendees an opportunity to relax with friends, enjoy small festivities, and learn more about Asian culture. While the holiday officially occurred nearly a week prior to Sewanee’s Lunar New Year party, the event nevertheless embraced the same appreciation to the holiday and the cultures that celebrate it.
Lunar New Year is a holiday celebrating the New Year in terms of the lunisolar calendar instead of the solar calendar. Although there is a tendency among Americans to refer to this as “Chinese New Year,” that is not accurate, as various other nations hold similar events. At least eight other countries celebrate this holiday, and each one carries their own routines and practices that distinguish their own culture from the others.
The bulk of the event’s educational aspects descended from a presentation by Crystal Nhu Ngo (C’20) on the various ways this event may be celebrated. Donned in an ao dai that fused Vietnamese and Chinese tradition, Ngo welcomed everyone to the event. She began by showing a video of dancers performing a “lion dance,” a true hallmark of the Lunar New Year alongside “dragon dancing.”
Lion dancing typically features two dancers dressed as a lion to scare away negative spirits as the new year approaches and bring in signs of good fortune. The clip featured in Ngo’s presentation depicted a Buddha rousing the lions into their dance and performing a series of tricks for the audience. Nearly every aspect of these performances holds significance in some way, even smaller details like the Buddha’s fat belly can represent luck.
After the lions have danced and brought in good fortune, families gather and simply have a great time being together, eating specific snacks, and playing a variety of games. The holiday comes with an array of specific flowers, foods, and decorations. “You know New Year’s is coming when you see these,” Ngo claimed before showing visuals of the items and foods that mark New Year’s for her, like mooncake and temple decor.
The event concluded with everyone being given a fortune cookie and sharing their fortune with their table. As the various fortunes rang out, anything from “You have executive ability” to “Share your fortune with others!” could be heard as everyone laughed at their own, emphasizing the sense of community and fun that comes with Lunar New Year and being around friends and family alike.
The Lunar New Year celebration was hosted and catered by the Sewanee Asian organization and the Organization for Cross-Cultural Understanding (OCCU).