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English House celebrated Lunar New Year with decorations, food, and performances on Jan. 28, 2020. Credit: Eason Zhao

Asian cultural groups across Penn celebrated the Lunar New Year throughout February, sharing a slice of their heritage with Penn’s student body. 

Although the Lunar New Year has come to an end, festivities at Penn celebrating the holiday will continue to be held into late February. Penn does not recognize Lunar New Year as an official holiday, so students from families celebrating Lunar New Year cherished the opportunity to do the same while on campus.

Lunar New Year is a holiday marking the beginning of the lunar calendar and is celebrated across East and Southeast Asia as a large celebration each year. It is often celebrated for multiple days or weeks. This year, Lunar New Year began on Feb. 1 and spans the first fifteen days of the year.

Catherine Chang, a College senior and president of the Penn Taiwanese Society, grew up in Taipei, Taiwan, where Lunar New Year is the most anticipated holiday of the year. Every year, her family gathered at her grandmother’s house to eat dinner together and pass out red envelopes, Chang said.

“Throughout my whole life, [Lunar New Year] has always been a holiday. It's weird to go to college and not have Lunar New Year off,” Chang said.

Chang said that PTS was planning a large dinner in Chinatown but canceled plans due to COVID-19 concerns. Despite the overturned plans, however, she still sent family and friends "red envelopes" through Venmo to keep with the holiday spirit.

On Feb. 8, Penn Dining partnered with the Pan-Asian American Community House to provide "regionally inspired dishes" and bring a guest speaker to the dining hall in Kings Court English College House. Hạnh Nguyễn, a Vietnamese language lecturer at the Penn Language Center, spoke at KCECH about the holiday.

Some cultural groups have still been able to celebrate the holiday amid COVID-19. Penn Lions, a student group performing traditional Chinese lion-dancing, hosted performances during the Lunar New Year season in Hill College House on Jan. 30, Lauder College House on Feb. 1, and at four Penn Dining locations on Feb. 8.

Martina Diao, a College junior and external vice president of Penn Lions, enjoyed the experience of performing across campus. Diao said getting to interact with students during their performances and bringing Penn’s diverse communities together was a highlight of the experience.

“We just love to spread the [Chinese] culture and spread good luck. And it shows other communities what Lion Dance is all about,” Diao said. 

The 2024 Class Board and multiple Asian affinity groups have also organized a "night market," to be held on Feb. 19 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Houston Hall. The initiative seeks to bring together Penn’s diverse cultural communities. 

Students will be able to participate in activities like lantern decorating and tasting traditional Lunar New Year foods. Penn Lions and PennYo, a Chinese a cappella group at Penn, will also perform at the event.

Wharton sophomore Shan Shan Liang is involved in organizing the "night market" event and was an advocate to include Lunar New Year celebrations within the event to bring together the large Asian community on campus.

“Lunar New Year was always a really fun tradition of my family, and so I really wanted to see more of that at Penn,” Liang said. “Because a lot of people don't even know that much about [Lunar New Year], I just thought it would be very valuable to the Penn experience.”