Celebrating Lunar New Year Away From Home

2020 is the year of the rat according to the lunar calendar, which is based on the cycles of the sun and moon combined (so the dates of the Lunar New Year vary slightly from year to year). Here at Dana Hall, parent volunteers and the International Student Association (ISA) arranged a series of activities for boarding students who celebrate the Lunar New Year but are far away from their hometown to feel like they are at home.

This year’s Lunar New Year fell on Saturday, January 25, and the 15-day festival lasted until February 8. The Lunar New Year begins with the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ends on the first full moon of the lunar calendar, always beginning some time between January 21 and February 20 according to Western calendars.

On January 22 to 24, during snack time, the parents provided international snacks such as rice crackers, seaweed, pocky, sunflower seeds, shrimp fries and tangerines. ISA and SHADES also collaborated and presented two meetings that week to talk about the history and how different people around Asia celebrate Lunar New Year. On Saturday, January 25, the first day of the Lunar New Year, the parents volunteered to teach students how to make dumplings and write Chinese calligraphy. On the last day of the Lunar New Year, February 8, the Lantern Festival, parent volunteers decorated Common Ground with lanterns and students had the chance to play with sparklers and had rice balls and smores. 

Despite being far away from home, Sura Zhang ’23 said that “I really like the feeling of many people gathering together and celebrating. I love how those parents volunteers use their time and energy to prepare this celebration for us.” 

The majority of the celebrants agreed that the School’s recognition of the importance of the holiday is increasing, because more events were held regarding the Lunar New Year this year. Sura said that she loved the activities and that “they really gave [her] a sense of belonging and warmth because back home [she] did many similar activities.”  Imo Gong ’22 commented that she “really liked the sweet rice ball and the sparklers” that were provided on February 8. 

Some students celebrated outside of Dana Hall as well. Catherine Zhao ’21 and Caddy Zhou ’21 both went out to Chinatown and had hotpot. They also bought premade rice balls and cooked inside the dorm. By doing so, they felt more like they were back home because during Lunar New Year in China, where people take a two-week break and relax. Most students who celebrate this festival still feel like there is a difference in celebrating Lunar New Year here and back home. Seeing friends and families gathering and celebrating made some students feel homesick and lonely. 

The Lunar New Year is celebrated in China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia, and in various parts of the world where there are people of Chinese descent. It is the time that brings families together for feasting, reuniting, and giving blessings to each other for the new year.

Photo credit: Ms. Donna Corrigan

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