Lunar New Year brings Penn students together to celebrate when their families are far

Credit: Manxi Wang

Most Penn students celebrated Christmas and New Year’s Day at home during winter break. But Monday evening in the rooftop lounge of Harnwell College House, Asian communities celebrated Lunar New Year together on a school day.

The event was cohosted by Harnwell’s East Asia House Residential Program, the Chinese Students’ Association, Penn Taiwanese Society and the Hong Kong Student Association. Students from different countries shared Asian food and performances of Chinese lion dancing and Korean samulnori, a type of percussion music.

Anticipating the holiday, students talked about what the Lunar New Year has meant to them.

College freshman Ton Nguyen said the Lunar New Year is a holiday of good wishes in Vietnamese culture.

“I think it’s the idea of new beginnings, and continuing the things you’ve valued the most — family, friendships. Then you start off fresh and work to have a great life,” Nguyen said.

As a member of the Vietnamese Student Association, Nguyen talked about celebrating the holiday at Penn. Despite being away from her home and family, Nguyen said she was happy to see that “a lot of people still cherish the traditions that we have, and we have a great community to celebrate with.”

Taiwanese College freshman China Llanos emphasized that the Lunar New Year is usually celebrated with family.

“For me it’s just been a family tradition, something my grandma had introduced to me. So after she passed away, it was a really special ritual for my family to celebrate,” she said.

This was her first year celebrating the Lunar New Year at Penn. Llanos made plans to go out with friends and went home to be with her family in New Jersey for the weekend. This upcoming Saturday will be the first day in the Year of the Rooster, according to Chinese zodiac.

Not everyone was with their family during the Lunar New Year. This year was the second time that College and Wharton sophomore Luming Yang celebrated the holiday on campus.

“I think the Lunar New Year is a time for family gathering,” Yang said, recounting her family celebrations back in China. “Every year our whole family, my parents, my sister and family members who came from other places to visit us in Shenzhen. So my grandparents often came, and we just cooked the New Year’s Eve dinner, watched the Spring Gala on TV and just did things together. It felt really warm to have all your family members by your side.”

Remembering the warmth of family gatherings, Yang felt that spending the New Year overseas was a totally different experience.

“Because New Year to me is never actually a holiday for friends, it is more of a getting together with the family ... I guess that’s something that I need to bear with coming abroad,” Yang said. “This is something that I have already expected. Every one of us do.”

All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.