The Lunar New Year Reality in College

It’s The Lunar New Year!  For most college students of Asian descent however, living away from home usually means that the New Years Celebrations pass them by, so how do they make the most out of this holiday on campus?

Today marks probably the single most important holiday in Asian cultures – The Lunar New Year.  New Years is in actuality only one day – but the celebration honoring the New Year is extended to about two weeks.  The Lunar New Year celebration calls for social gatherings, lion dances, flower festivals, red envelope exchanges and much more, yet for such an explosive holiday, I find myself sitting in my dorm room today while the halls outside are eerily silent.  In fact, the only things that actually confirm that today is indeed the start of a New Year on the Lunar Calendar are the statuses that I find on my daily perusal of my Facebook newsfeed that read “????” or in other words Happy New Year.

While on the phone with my mother who called from Mott street in Chinatown, New York, I hear on the other end, the rhythmic beating of drums that vibrate my heart without my even being physically present and the boisterous crowd of adults and young children all encouraging the lions to continue dancing.  It was a stark contrast to my dormitory in which students sat mesmerized in front of their laptops, busily studying for the upcoming organic chemistry exam.  It was quite sad, but the fact is, away from home, The Lunar New Year festivities are largely overshadowed by the academic priorities of students studying away from home.  However, though my side of town was clearly lacking in terms of festivities, there are definitely international students or simply students studying away from home that find ways to celebrate the coming of the New Year even without the elaborate festivals and lively dinner parties.

Chinese New Year lanterns.
Chinese New Year lanterns.

Though it is hard to compete with the celebrations that take place in say, New York City, which boasts of weekly lion dances, parades, and performances, some college students do rival those traditions by putting on performances of their own.

In Coker College in South Carolina, dances, acrobatic performances, and juggling acts were on the lineup for the day-long celebration of The Lunar New Year.  Furthermore, students in Asian Associations in many college campuses also perform the traditional lion dance as a tribute to the New Year.  In these cases, we see many students take charge of the New Years festivities and attempt to recreate the liveliness of the holiday back home, whether that in the nation or abroad.

Also, in conjunction with these traditional performances, food is often served. Though I cannot vouch that the food served is anything like what other families prepare on New Years day (my family for instance, tend to prepare lobster and an assortment of other seafood, but that of course is rarely encompassed by the budget of most Associations), it is a huge benefit or perhaps consolation for those who are homesick (like me!) for the animated atmosphere of this largely family oriented day.

New Years is unmistakably a very loud holiday, calling for many flamboyant and noisy performances, so for those who tend to shy away from big crowds, New Years ends up being celebrated in a rather quiet and peaceful passion.  Some of my international friends prefer ordering a luxurious assortment of foods like spare ribs, fish, lobster, and clams instead to share with friends.  After meals they like to engage in some New Years arts and crafts, which involve making lanterns and fishes out of red envelopes to hang as ornaments in their rooms.

So no matter, how you choose to celebrate the arrival of the New Year, whether in a monumental fashion or just a small celebration between a group of close-knit friends, just remember to have a good time!  Though your location may not be optimal for New Years celebrations, take some time out to honor its arrival!  For most of us college students, the holiday will quickly come and go, or more appropriately diminish in importance and perhaps even dwarfed by that organic chemistry exam you have next week or that twenty page paper due tomorrow at midnight – so savor it while it lasts!

international student voice Mei Xin LuoThis article was written by Mei Xin Luo, ISV Blogger/Writer intern

 

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