Celebrating the blissful Lunar New Year at Vassar

Tracy Cen/The Miscellany News.

Lunar New Year is a very special time for many Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities around the country. In this span of two weeks, Asian families reconvene to celebrate the passing of another year by participating in traditions that go back centuries. Some noteworthy traditions include gathering around a round table to eat authentic Asian cuisines, popping loud firecrackers in the moonlit streets, receiving red envelopes from my seniors, countless red symbols appearing around my house and releasing bright lanterns into the beautiful night sky. As an AAPI student myself, I can attest to these experiences and the many memories that come with the New Year. At Vassar, these celebrations carry on and bring AAPI communities closer together. 

If Lunar New Year doesn’t sound familiar to you, the holiday is referred to by other official names, such as Chinese New Year and the Spring Festival. Lunar New Year 2023 started on Jan. 22 and will last until Feb. 5, spanning a full 15 days, or half a lunar cycle. 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit, which is the fourth animal in the Chinese zodiac. The year is predicted to be relaxing and plentiful for all. 

On Jan. 28 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., the Chinese Student Community (CSC) hosted the Spring Festival in the AULA. CSC is a student organization that connects Chinese internationals with the larger Vassar community through cultural events, food festivals and career nights. The preparations for this important occasion began last December with appeals to performers and purchases of decorations. President of the CSC Yidan Xu ’24 was especially excited about this upcoming event. “As the first post-COVID Spring Festival, we are finally serving hot food and are looking forward to [having] more people to come!” she explained. 

Nine amazing student performances graced the stage that night and marveled watchers. This included K-pop choreography, a rendition of Peking opera, a rock band performance and much more. While watching the performances, attendees could indulge themselves in a variety of delicious dumplings and well known Chinese snacks. On the side of the room, there was a table for writing Spring Festival calligraphy, which commemorated the major holiday and gave guests an opportunity to explore Chinese culture. Red envelopes containing slips of paper with a kind message and a number were also handed out to the crowd. This would later play a role in the raffle during intermissions; winners received prizes such as ornaments and snacks. 

Miranda Liu ’26 was one of the talented performers that night. With her group of four other students, she performed “Attention” by NewJeans with fun K-pop dance choreography. Liu thought the preparation leading up to the Spring Festival was by far the most memorable. “Practicing the dance was my favorite part about the entire process,” Liu said. “The five of us bonded over this dance and became closer than before.” As this was the only English song of the evening, the performance stood out from the rest. “I hope [our performance] brought a lot of energy to the audience and cheered everyone up!” Liu remarked. 

As President of the CSC, Xu was responsible for organizing the event. However, this didn’t stop her from performing as well. Together with Yining Shang ’25, she performed a contemporary version of Peking opera called “神女劈观” by 剧情. Both Xu and Shang worked tirelessly to ensure their performance paid homage to traditional Peking opera. “I don’t have much experience singing Chinese traditional opera, so I listened to a lot of different versions of this song sung by professional opera singers,” Xu recalled. “While this song is not strictly a piece of Peking opera… I still hope that our performance could get more people to be interested in this art form!” Xu and Shang gave their all during the performance. Shang thanks her friends for being there in support of their goal. “My favorite part of this process is… when we practiced in Skinner, some of our friends who were also in Skinner at the time… listened to our song [and gave] us some advice,” Shang explained. “Having someone else [listen to our song] before the performance really made a difference.” 

The Spring Festival was a very meaningful event for many Chinese international students, such as Vice President of the CSC, Carina Jiang ’24. “Because everybody is far from home now, we want this event at Vassar to be a chance to at least celebrate with our friends when we are not with our families,” she said. “This is the biggest celebration of the whole year for all Chinese students.” Shang had a similar experience during the event. “The recurring music played during [the] Spring Festival is a vital part of my memory at home and getting to hear [it] again with people together makes me feel at home,” she said. Approximately 7,200 miles and 15 hours away from home, the Spring Festival brought the Chinese international students together for a night of fun and laughter. Thanks to the efforts of CSC, Vassar is no longer just a foreign country, but a second home for many. 

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