Student-run Lunar New Year celebration is a symbol of union and joy

PAACE, with help from SAIL, hosts cherished Asian cultural festival on campus for international and Asian-American students far from home


Nearly 100 students attended the student-run Lunar New Year celebration in the Science Center. Photo by Yizhen Zhou, ’24.

Yizhen Zhou

Pan-Asian Association For Cultural Exchange (PAACE) held their signature event, the Lunar New Year Food Event, in the Science Center’s Great Hall on Jan. 29.

The event was free and tickets were not required. For two hours, W&L Dining served Asian-styled food to nearly 100 students as they played games. The game involved people answering riddles about Asian cultures, written on a wall. Players wrote their answer on a piece of paper and put it in a bowl. At the end, a PAACE student  would draw from the bowl for a random answer. Whoever was picked with the correct answer was gifted with a cute tiger doll, in honor of Asian zodiac’s Year of the Tiger. A lively atmosphere filled the room as people chatted, laughed, and devoured the food set on nine round tables.

The Lunar New Year is significant in Asian cultures. It is a day when people  host an immense feast to reunite with their families and celebrate the arrival of a new year, no matter where they are or what they’re doing. People often make wishes and pray for good fortune. The color of red  joyfulness and boisterousness. It is also said to be able to scare away a Chinese mythical man-eating monster called “Nián”. 

A man-eating monster, “Nián”, slumbered in a cave close to a small town. He would wake once a year and go on a rampage, unless the town gave him a human sacrifice. However, the townspeople figured out that the color red, loud noises, and bright lights from firecrackers would scare Nian away.  Thus putting up red decorations and celebrating boisterously is now symbolic of “driving out evil and inviting fortune.”

International Chinese student Jack Longma ‘24, complained that he couldn’t go home to reunite with his family for two consecutive years due to the pandemic. He said he is grateful that PAACE hosted the Lunar New Year event.

“This New Year Event really resembles the celebration feast back in my home,” Longma said, “It’s about sitting, and dining, and joking at the same table with complete strangers or family relatives you’ve never even heard of.”

The event was hosted by PAACE executive board, President Kaylann Adler ’23, Vice President Alice Chen ’23, Secretary Aislinn Niimi ’24, Treasurer Will Xue ’24 and Public Relations Angela Tu ’24. The Student Association for International Learning (SAIL) also helped organize the event.

Niimi explains that the New Year event is as simple as having a day of celebration for this special time of the year.

“It’s all about a new start, big hopes, and big dreams.”

Off campus, students also celebrate the lunar new year with their close friends. Hannah Kang, ’22, hosted a meal where she invited 14 friends to her house. They made pork dumplings, handed out red envelopes, and played a traditional Korean game called Yut Nori. 

“I think it was a comforting reminder of roots for some people and a welcome new experience for others,” Kang said.

The East Asian Languages and Literature department will host a Lunar New Year celebration on Feb. 17 in the Stackhouse theater at 6 p.m for students taking classes in the department. The celebration includes eight performances connected to the Lunar New Year.