Lunar New Year is the most important festival among the Chinese and other Asian communities. Just like Christmas, everyone goes back home, enjoying time with their families and welcoming good and new. Despite the central value of hope and family reunion, it is celebrated in different ways in different Asian countries. Many international students need to spend their new year time away from family too. Having talked with students from various places, blogger Angel introduces a selection of the diversified Lunar New Year celebrations and how students celebrate it in university during term time.
Lunar New Year in 2023 will be celebrated on Sunday 22nd January and will celebrate the Year of the Rabbit. Even though it is often heard of as Chinese New Year, it is not just China that celebrates this festival, marking the end of the winter period and a sign of new growth to come.
On New Year’s Eve night, most families in mainland China gathered around the television, watching ‘Chunwan’ together. It is an annual variety show featuring numerous shows like comedy, music performances. After the show, people in the northern provinces usually eat dumplings at 12am. Shaped like ancient Chinese money, they symbolise prosperity in the coming year.
On the first few days of the New Year, most Chinese visit their relatives in both paternal and maternal sides. They enjoy big feasts together, but the dishes vary across the country. Red pockets, known as Hongbao in mainland China, are given by adults to children as blessing. They play fireworks too. Then, they spend the rest of the time with their families.
Indonesia is a multi-ethnic country. While the Chinese-Indo community preserve the traditional celebrations like visiting relatives, the other do not celebrate it. However, Lunar New Year brings significant social impacts. For example, there are lion dance performances that bring fortune and chase away evilness in shopping malls. Children can receive red pockets, which are known as Angpao there. Lunar New Year is one of the national holidays in Indonesia too.
Malaysia is culturally diverse like Indonesia, and regions with large Chinese population like Penang are very festive during Lunar New Year. In addition to the traditional celebrations, they do ‘Lou Sang’ which is a distinctive practice brought to there by the Chinese emigrants. A big plate of salad with raw fish and shredded mixed vegetables is served, and everyone at the table tosses the ingredients into the air with chopsticks.
The salad symbolises abundance and the height of the toss means the growth in fortunes. Kek Lok Si Temple, the largest Chinese temple in Southeast Asia, is lit up throughout the entire period of Lunar New Year too.
There is also some special Lunar New Year dished in Taiwan, and the most significant one is ‘Fotiaoqiang’. It means Buddha jumping over the wall because it is so delicious that even the monks are attracted. Consisting of large amount of ingredients like scallop, taro and pork, it means fortune and wealth. People also enjoy hotpot because the whole family can unite and enjoy the warmth together. Some Taiwanese buy lottery tickets to test how lucky they are going to be as well.
Unity of family is a central in Lunar New Year. How do Warwick students celebrate it when they are away from home?
One of my friends told me that she will have phone call with her family, and her mom insists that she must eat dumplings on the New Year Eve. Although it is impossible to have family meal with the relatives, many of them will cook and enjoy New Year dinner with their friends. Friends are the family we choose, and home is somewhere bringing love and warmth.
Different cultural societies organise events like New Year Dinner and DIY workshops during the Lunar New Year. If you are struggling to find some friends to celebrate with you or just curious about it, why don’t you join their events? Despite the difference in culture, family, love and hope are important to everyone in the world.
Studying in university undoubtedly changes how we celebrate different festivals. If you’d like to know some tips to celebrate Easter away from home, why not take a look at ‘Fun Tips to Spend Orthodox Easter Away from Home’? You can also learn how to strike a balance between festival celebration and academic study from ‘Christmas and Uni: How to Do Both’.