Thursday, Feb. 7 marked the beginning of the Lunar Year of the Rat, otherwise popularly known as the Chinese New Year. Celebrated on the first day of the new year with a new moon, the holiday is celebrated not only in China and Taiwan, but also in countries all across Asia including Korea, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines.
“Chinese New Year is engineered as an annual event for the Asian community to reunite,” said Steve Hsieh, a first-year Biochemistry major.
In 104 B.C., Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty implemented and proclaimed the holiday to be in the first month, where it remains to this day. This celebration has spread throughout Asia over the years due to the Chinese empire.
Because the holiday is based on the lunar calendar, the day of the New Year is subject to change according to the U.S.-accepted Gregorian calendar. In Asian countries such as China, Korea and Vietnam, the New Year often acts as a one to three-day holiday from business and government services. Regardless, each year the holiday is celebrated among the Asian community with food, gifts and other festivities.
Within the Chinese and Taiwanese communities in particular, New Year’s is celebrated with new clothes (often red) and giving red envelopes filled with money as gifts to children by their elders. In the U.S., the holiday is celebrated in the same fashion, but also with a large dinner filled with family and friends.
“[My favorite part about Chinese New Year is] definitely the whole family dinner with ten dishes. It’s definitely good to see my family again since we hardly get together,” said Ginger Tsai, TASA secretary and second-year Biomedical Engineering major.
At Tech, Chinese and Taiwanese students are celebrating not only within their family, but also in their respective organizations. Although Chinese and Taiwanese come from different countries, their cultures are very similar. Each year, the Taiwanese Student Association (TASA) at Tech works with Emory’s chapter to set up a booth to sell food at the Chinese Cultural Center’s Lunar New Year festival in Chamblee, Georgia. The event occurred on Feb. 9-10 and drew out a large crowd. The event not only draws out local Atlanta residents of many cultures, but students from Tech, Emory, Georgia State and the University of Georgia.
“I think [working together at the festival is] an excellent bonding opportunity between two prestigious schools,” said Jerry Chen, a first-year Emory student.
This year, the Emory and Tech TASA booth sold various kinds of cakes similar to “Chinese waffles” or “pancakes” but with fillings including red bean, tapioca and custard. In addition, members sold bubble tea in various flavors, such as coffee, milk tea, mango, and so on. While the food was sold and made throughout the day by TASA members, the preparation took much work.
“Well, I came here around 9 in the morning. We basically just moved everything in here. And ah yee [translated to “an older woman”] helped us make tea and tapioca,” said Arianna Chang, a first-year Biology major.
In addition to preparing and selling traditional sweets and drinks, TASA members also performed dances ranging from current hip-hop to the traditional dragon dance, in which a dragon consisting of multiple people chases a person carrying “the sun” (a red ball) around.
“It’s like a past custom. The person in the front is the sun and the dragon chases the sun…it shares our gratitude for the new year,” said Andy Wu, a first-year Chemical Engineering major.
Annually, the event attracts people of all backgrounds and cultures, not only among Asians.
“I’ve been [to CCC’s Chinese New Year celebration] since I was a little kid. You get to see people you don’t see that often. You get to share in your culture,” said Allene Tang, a first-year Biology major.
In addition to festivities over the last weekend, the Chinese Student Association (CSA) is also working together with Emory University’s Chinese Student Association, Taiwanese American Student Association, Vietnamese Student Association, Hong Kong Student Association and Students in Alliance for Asian American Concerns to hold the Lunar Banquet this Friday at the Fox Theatre. The event costs $20 per person, and will include Chinese cuisine, performances and even a fashion show showcasing Asian culture.
“I think it is really great that CSA not only has events on campus but is reaching out to other colleges this Chinese New Year to increase networking possibilities,” said Roger Chiou, vice president of CSA and fifth-year Electrical and Computer Engineering major.
Although Chinese New Year is almost over, CSA and TASA will be planning other events from now until the end of the year, including those using some of the money financed by the New Year events. These events will include food and fun for Asian and non-Asian students alike.
“Definitely come to the TASA events, you get to meet new people and socialize. And coming [to CCC’s Chinese New Year Celebration], you get a lot of delicious food,” Tsai said.