Celebrations of the Lunar New Year on campus

Rose Woodbury

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Credit: E. Johnson

Feb. 14 will celebrate more than chocolate and flowers this year as billions of people around the world, including many Whitman students, usher in the Chinese New Year.

Chinese New Year falls on different dates on the Gregorian Calendar every year because it is based on the beginning of the lunar year, explained Vietnamese Cultural Club President junior Trang Pham. People in China, Vietnam, Korea and Mongolia, as well as millions of people in the United States, observe the holiday for different numbers of days each year.

At Whitman, the Asian Studies House plans to host a Lunar New Year celebration this Sunday, Feb. 14, at 6:30 p.m. in collaboration with the Vietnamese Cultural Club and the Global Awareness House.

“We want to raise awareness and celebrate together with the campus and be a part of the celebration of the people who grew up celebrating [the Lunar New Year],” said junior Maherin Ahmed, a resident of the Global Awareness House.

“It’s just like Christmas,” said sophomore Bryant Fong, who celebrated the holiday while growing up at home in Corvallis, Ore. “You get to spend a lot of time with your family.”

Like Fong, Pham also has fond memories of celebrating the holiday with her family in Northern Vietnam.

“In Vietnam, Lunar New Year is celebrated throughout a three day period. People don’t work and would stay home to make a traditional cake called banh chung. To make this cake it takes a day and a half. People stay up all night talking around the pot [where the cake is cooking] and the kids play.”

The Asian Studies House and the Vietnamese Cultural Club will cook foods such as Vietnamese soup, stir-fry and traditional desserts. The hosts also plan to teach the guests how to make their own spring rolls.

The Asian Studies House plans to have activities such as karaoke and a PowerPoint presentation designed to inform guests about the history and practice of the Chinese New Year.

“[When I celebrated as a child] the elderly would hang red packets of money in the trees,” said junior David Mai, who is from Los Angeles and RA of the Asian Studies House. “The kids would all get to reach up and pick a packet and keep whatever sum of money they chose. At the ASH instead of money we’re going to have candy.”

The Asian Cultural Association has also planned a celebration for Friday, Feb. 19, which will take place in the Kimball Auditorium and will include a performance. They plan to help host another celebration featuring traditional foods in Prentiss Dining Hall on Saturday, Feb. 20.

“Different parts of China celebrate it differently,” said Fong, who explained that the holiday, also known as Spring Festival originated from farmers’ celebrations of spring.

Whitman students plan to celebrate the holiday in a number of different ways, but all aim to pay a tribute to the holiday and celebrate the dawning of a new lunar year. All Whitman students and faculty are invited and encouraged to attend the festivities.