The weekend of Feb. 5 marks the beginning of festivities around the world commemorating the start of the new year within the traditional lunisolar calendar. Boston College students can look forward to a variety of events on campus and in the city of Boston celebrating the occasion.
The Lunar New Year, also referred to as Chinese New Year, is an annual event that occurs between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20. While the holiday is based on the Chinese calendar, the date is observed by many other Asian countries, hence why Lunar New Year is a better term to describe the festivities.
The Lunar New Year follows a twelve-year cycle of unique Chinese astrological signs. Each year is associated with one animal and one element. Possible elements include gold, water, wood, fire, or earth. For 2016, the Lunar New Year marks the period of the fire monkey, which according to Chinese astrological tradition means that those born in 2016 will display characteristics of ambition and pride.
Chinese Student Association (CSA) Freshman Representative Vinh Tran, CSOM '19, explained, “Lunar New Year is not about race and ethnicity. It’s about coming together as friends and family to wish each other happiness, good luck, and prosperity for the new year. It is a reminder that we are all family, and that that bond is the most precious thing in this world.”
Family is certainly a central theme of the Lunar New Year, as a traditional commemoration involves a family gathering and gift-giving. Relatives exchange red envelopes filled with cash, with children and the elderly typically receiving the most generous amounts. Wishes of good fortune and prosperity are shared by all, along with moon cakes, a sweet pastry, for dessert.
BC students have the opportunity to enjoy a similar celebration on campus, as CSA is hosting a red envelope exchange. Instead of money, however, students can fill red envelopes with CSA stickers and personal notes wishing fellow students good luck and prosperity. CSA members will notify students if there’s an envelope awaiting them. The red envelope celebration unfolds during the afternoon and evening of Feb. 21.
Various cultural clubs are hosting a public dinner this Monday to mirror traditional family celebrations. The Southeast Asian Student Association (SEASA) is one of the co-sponsors of the dinner. SEASA Freshman Representative Khanh Le, CSON '19, said, “SEASA is excited to co-host a Lunar New Year celebration with other cultural clubs on campus. It’s a great way for people who aren’t from here to participate in a commemoration about something that is very important to them that can make everyone feel like family.”
Typically, Lunar New Year parades are an elaborate celebration, as many members of the community participate in some way. Many hang red paper lanterns over city streets, lighting the way during nighttime parties and marking the path of the upcoming parade. Participants usually set off firecrackers, and large scale fireworks mark the end of the celebration. Dragon dancers are a defining feature of the celebration as well, as multiple dancers perform routines that mirror the flow of a river.
For 2016, the holiday falls on Monday, Feb. 8, yet celebrations in the Boston area occur for several weeks before and after the holiday. Chinatown is a focal point for the weekend, as it hosts a large-scale parade along Beach Street. Students can enjoy a close view of the parade, for the streets become limited to pedestrians only and there are no barricades impeding spectators. The parade is planned for Sunday, Feb. 14 and admission is free.
The Museum of Fine Arts is also hosting an event on Feb. 6 to commemorate the Lunar New Year. The museum will display various cultural exhibits representing the countries of China, Vietnam, and South Korea. For example, visitors can attend workshops on Chinese Hand Drums and Gongfu: a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. Admission to the MFA is free with a student ID, and the Feb. 6 events are free as well.
Students need not be involved in CSA or SEASA to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Besides the various opportunities in the city of Boston, and the events occurring on campus, many other students are celebrating in their own ways. For example, Ali Debasitis, MCAS '18, said, “My roommate and I plan to make paper lanterns of our own and hang and them around the dorm.”