Edward Guo ’19
The aroma of a variety of traditional dishes from across Asia provided by students’ parents greeted people as they passed by the Student Center last Saturday for a celebration of the Lunar New Year. Community members were able to enjoy the food as well as activities such as sparklers, karaoke, and Asian trivia.
The celebration at Hotchkiss was held on Saturday, January 25. Many East Asian and Southeast Asian celebrations of the Lunar New Year, such as those of Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, were or are based on the Chinese lunar calendar, while other Southern and Southeastern Asian celebrations are based off of their local lunar calendars. For countries that use Lunar calendars, which base their days, months, and years on moon cycles, the beginning of a new year is marked by the first new moon of each year. There are common elements of the New Year celebrations all over Asia, such as fireworks, dancing, and red paper decorations, which represent happiness and good fortune. People commonly wear red to bring them good fortune. Some students wore a hanbok—a type of dress traditional to Korea that is worn for celebrations. Other students wore qipao, also known as cheongsam—a traditional Chinese dress.
The school hung up 300 red lanterns in rows in front of Main Building for the first time ever in recognition of the Lunar New Year, and they will stay up throughout the rest of the Lunar New Year holiday. Lanterns are used as decorations in China during the New Year to bring good luck. They were donated to the school by the family of Christina Osborne ’21.
The event featured copious snacks and food from China, Korea, Thailand, Japan, and Vietnam. Nina Sukonrat ’20, one of the Asian Culture Club heads, said, “Some [foods] aren’t really related to the Lunar New Year, but we want it to be a chance for everyone to share their cultures’ food.” There were stations for community members to learn traditional jianzhi—paper cutting, calligraphy, and kicking jianzi—a Chinese game involving the kicking of a weighted shuttlecock. There were also sparklers outside the Student Center and a chance to sing karaoke in different Asian languages. Stella Ren ’22 said, “I really enjoyed getting a sense of being at home at Hotchkiss last year, because everything we did felt like things I do at home.”
There were a few new additions to the celebration from last year. The revival of the Asian Culture Club and the creation of Korean Club have contributed to an increase in food and games at the event. New snacks included Thai tea and Taiwanese milk tea. There was also a new Asian Trivia station, organized by the Quizbowl Club. This larger event has only been around for the past three years. Previously, the Lunar New Year was celebrated with only a spread in the Dining Hall, organized by the Chinese Club. There has also been a broadening of focus, so that all cultures that celebrate the Lunar New Year are included, instead of only celebrating the Chinese New Year.
The event was organized by the Chinese Club, the Korean Club, and the Asian Culture Club in conjunction with Ms. Yasumura, the Dining Hall staff, and parents. They had a meeting before and after Winter break to share ideas, before breaking off to organize snacks and stations within their own clubs.
The Lunar New Year is a time for the whole community to come together to celebrate many students’ heritages. Sukonrat said, “It is a time for family celebration and I think [the Hotchkiss community is] one big family. It’s really nice to see people of all cultures and heritages come together to celebrate this one unique thing that is a big part of our cultures.”
It is also a celebration that educates people on this important part of some students’ lives. Ren said, “I think… embracing different cultures [is vital], especially because there’s such a large international school population from Asia at Hotchkiss. I think the school has a responsibility to open the community’s eyes to cultures all over the world and it makes our community more inclusive when we understand each other’s cultures.”
To find out more about the Lunar New Year and different ways it is celebrated, you can talk to any heads of the clubs that helped organize this celebration.