ASA dinner celebrates Lunar New Year

While going off to college means having to leave behind friends, family and the familiarities of home, some traditions still hold true even in light of these changes.

The Lunar New Year, which the Vassar community celebrated on Feb. 10, gave some students the opportunity to continue their observance of one of China’s most important holidays while other students got a taste of the excitement for the first time.

Like many traditions that go along with the New Year, Lunar New Year centers on spending time with loved ones and looking forward to new beginnings. Here at Vassar, these values continue to resonate with students, who enjoyed food, music and friends during the Lunar New Year dinner hosted by the Asian Student Alliance (ASA).

For a couple of dollars, students indulged in an open buffet of Chinese food, some live entertainment, and this year, a photo booth to commemorate the event.

Students saw an opportunity to expand their horizons and diversify their pallet for cultural cuisine.

Maggie Shepherd ’15, said, “I am excited to learn about the year of the snake. But also to eat some awesome Chinese food!”

While the celebration was in full swing at Vassar, many students were stil thinking of home. Many said they would probably call their parents later and their own parties to wish them a happy New Year.

One of these students was Julia Chung ’13, who said her parents’ celebration is not that different from hers.

“My parents always celebrate the New Year better than I do! They go out with their friends and party,” she said.

Some students, travelers of and residents from different corners of the world, looked to the dinner for a reminder of what they like most about the holiday as its celebrated in the place from which they have returned.

Phil Chin ‘15, said, “I am from France, where this is the only Chinese holiday that is really celebrated. I miss the celebration!”

Likewise, Anastassisa Knight ‘14 who just returned from a semester abroad in Japan said, “[I’m] excited to celebrate, obviously! And eat food.”

In fact, a huge feast is typical of all kinds of new year’s celebrations and at Vassar can be a huge draw for many students who are looking for a change from their everyday dining experiences.

The food that everyone is most excited for is usually the dumplings, because they are on the menu every year and are particularly delicious. Thomas Hochla ’13 went back for seconds after saying, “This is my favorite event at Vassar!

Other than the dumplings, there were trays of orange slices, a food that is always served on Lunar New Year due to its symbolism. The word for “orange” in Chinese is a homophone for luck, so it is thought that eating orange slices will bring you luck in the New Year. There was also sesame candy in red envelope packets, which combined two different traditional Chinese New Year traditions.

Candy is a big part of the new year’s feast, and the red envelopes are elders usually use to gift money to younger family members.  The amount of money can range from small to large amounts, but is always given in an even number. Even numbers are luckier because odd numbers are associated with cash given at funerals. Numbers that end in eight are also common because eight is considered the luckiest number.

Other traditions practiced to bring luck include throwing firecrackers which are meant toscare away the evil spirit of bad luck. The color red, too, is utilized to deter bad fortune and bring good spirits in to the New Year. For that reason, it is quite ubiquitous when it comes to the decor of all celebrations, including ASA’s dinner.

It is thought that the brightness of the color would scare away evil spirits and bad fortune, keeping the wearer safe for the start of the New Year. At the New Year Celebration, many participants embraced this tradition and wore red.

Overall, the evening was full of friendly banter and food.

David Lopez ’13 commented, “I love being here with all my friends. It makes me feel great.” His table of friends agreed, saying that they were happy to be there sharing some great food with friends and celebrating the New Year.

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