Student organizations collaborate to plan annual Lunar New Year celebration in Warch Campus Center

Michael Zhang 23’ (left), Jamie Dong 22’ (right) running last year’s lunar new year celebration video as the MCs. Photo by Jamie Dong.

Lawrence’s 2022 Lunar New Year celebration will take place on Saturday, Jan. 29, at 6:30 p.m. starting in the Somerset Room of the Warch Campus Center.  

The holiday is an annual celebration of the start of the new Lunar Year, which is based on the cycles of the moon and is celebrated in many East and Southeast Asian countries. A new Lunar Year starts after 12 cycles have passed, this year on Feb. 1. The date of the Lunar New Year changes because the cycles of the moon do not line up perfectly with the Gregorian calendar. 

This year’s celebration is hosted by Lawrence International (LI), the Chinese Students Association (CSA), the Korean Culture Club (KCC), the Vietnamese Culture Organization (VCO) and the Pan-Asian Organization (PAO). There will be cultural performances, an educational presentation and grab-and-go food. 

According to Associate Dean of Students for International Student Services Leah McSorley, there will be two performances. The first will consist of a traditional lion dance by performers from the Seven Star Lion Dance Group in Chicago, where people wear elaborate costumes with bells and perform a dance. The Seven Star Lion Dance Group’s website says the lion dance is performed to bring happiness, good fortune and prosperity for the New Year as well as ward off evil spirits. 

The second performance will consist of two pieces of music performed by off-campus violinist Jenny Wang and accompanied by Lawrence Conservatory pianist Ami Hatori. According to CSA president and junior Amber Gu, one is a traditional Lunar New Year piece, and the other is about celebrating the harvest, which is not specific to the Lunar New Year but encapsulates a celebratory attitude.  

The cultural presentation will open with a brief explanation from LI on what the Lunar New Year is before representatives of the other student organizations hosting the event speak to their more personal traditions of Lunar New Year, according to McSorley. Everyone celebrates the Lunar New Year a bit differently, and the event hopes to give attendees an idea of the overall traditions and customs of the holiday as well as a close-up look at how individuals celebrate.  

The five organizations hosting the event will each have a cultural booth for people to visit in the Esch Hurvis Room after the cultural presentations finish. The booths will offer the opportunity to learn about each country’s traditions, and they typically have activities related to the Lunar New Year, decided by each individual organization. Hung Nguyen, junior and board member of VCO, said that booths will also have treats and traditional Lunar New Year decorations of the cultures represented by the booth. 

Specific traditions vary from country to country, but the Lunar New Year is typically celebrated with extended family. Gu said it is similar to the American Christmas, as people will travel long distances to spend the holiday with family and eat traditional food.   

Likewise, the Lunar New Year is often known for its focus on luck and lucky money. Elderly people give red envelopes of money to children for luck in China. Red banners and other decorations are prominently displayed, as red is the lucky color for the New Year, according to Gu.  

Additionally, a zodiac animal is associated with each year, with this coming year being the Year of the Tiger. At the start of each new Lunar Year, the animal changes to the next animal in the cycle. 

Nguyen said that traditions vary even between regions in specific countries and that the cultural booths will provide more insight into these differences. Things like lucky money, food and customs vary, but the general spirit of the Lunar New Year is similar for each country. 

Food will be ordered from Mai’s Deli and be available on a first come, first serve basis and served as grab-and-go. Options include drunken noodles, pad thai, fried rice, udon noodle, pad ka pao and the Mai’s combo platter. McSorley said the dishes are not representative of every culture, but they were agreed upon as a generally approved palate for the Lunar New Year by the committee responsible for planning the celebration.  

In years past, Bon Appetit has catered a large reception, but due to COVID-19 protocols and Bon Appetit staffing issues, the food from Mai’s Deli was chosen as an alternative. 

The event is only open to students, faculty, and staff in accordance with current COVID-19 protocols. Attendees will be expected to follow COVID-19 guidelines and there will be a limit to the amount of people allowed in the Somerset Room during the cultural presentations. The doors will be closed if the room reaches capacity. 

There will also be a virtual Lunar New Year event on Jan. 30 at 6:30 p.m. for people who cannot or do not wish to attend in person. It will be a pre-recorded livestream of the event on Jan. 29 and will be posted on the Lunar New Year page of the Lawrence website.