Lunar New Year Spirit: Community and Celebration | St. Lawrence University

Lunar New Year Spirit: Community and Celebration

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

When my friends at St. Lawrence University asked me to explain Lunar New Year to them, I asked them to think of having Christmas combined with Thanksgiving – a long and the most special event of the year! In Vietnamese culture, we value the importance of staying connected with our extended family. Lunar New Year is the time when those who are working far away come home and spend time with their parents. Grandchildren learn to come back to their hometowns and worship their ancestors. We try to wrap up the old year and spend some relaxing, enjoyable time with people we love the most.

We are blessed to have a caring community at St. Lawrence that helped us put together a virtual Lunar New Year Virtual Celebration this year. The celebration lifted my spirits and made me feel supported, as my home is 8,000 miles away from Canton, N.Y. It made me happy to be able to share the importance and traditions of Lunar New Year with my Laurentian family.

For this year’s celebration, we wanted to share a piece of home with our community here. What was unique about this year was the harmonious interaction between different identity, race, and age among the organizers, performers and audience. We presented how four different cultures celebrate Lunar New Year back home. There are many commonalities among the cultures and the idea is for us all to come together, be merry and start the New Year on the right note.

Staff (Helen Huang, Tsewang Lama and Megan Putney) and faculty worked closely with students to prepare the performances and some even performed alongside with students. The most beautiful part was seeing friends sing, dance, and read poem together without any barriers of race or identity. Our voices and performances moved in harmony with each other.

We focused on traditions that we enjoyed during Lunar New Year, and shared our rich cultures with each other. For example, food is always one of the most important components of the New Year. Beyond just introducing the food, we wanted to introduce the best way to make that food at home by showing a video tutorial. Clothes are also something essential to the culture as it is a signifier of identity and culture, as well as showing the unity of the group. Therefore, we talked about our clothes and the meaning behind them. We learned how to make Japanese paper cranes together, which is a symbol of hope, healing and peace.

When someone performed a song or read a poem, it touched my heart to know that we were harmonizing and performing together despite being in our separate Zoom rooms. It reminded me of the importance of teamwork and community. The event was a celebration of old traditions, but we adapted it in this virtual setting in a way in which both the performers and audience could enjoy the spirit of Lunar New Year, as well as learn something new from each other.