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Lunar year begins with campus party

Jan. 24, 2001

Faculty, workers, students celebrate New Year at BSC

By CAROLINE DANGLES

Reporter

Asian students celebrated the first day of the lunar calendar today, which begins the snake's year.

For Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and other Asian people, the celebration of the New Year remains the most important date of the year. Also called 'Chun Jie' or spring festival, this significant day must be the fresh start for a prosperous year.

The traditions of this celebration include keeping the house clean for three days before the New Year, decorating the walls of the house with black calligraphy on red paper, gathering with family, worshiping the ancestors and visiting the old members of the family.

Not only Chinese people celebrate this event. Most Asian countries except Japan make a big deal of it.

'It is a part of me,' Ana Nguyen, a Dallas senior originally from Vietnam, said. 'You are more in touch with who you are. Your mind is refreshed again.'

'Since around five years [ago], we celebrate more the Chinese New Year than the western one,' Sang Eun Cho, a junior exchange student from Korea, said. 'We have to respect our traditions, and the [Korean] government also emphasizes the Chinese celebration.'

Consequently, the traditions tend to be well-followed. Family members, who spend time preparing a variety of dishes, later gather around the table to eat and talk.

'Everything is red,' Nguyen said.

Houses are decorated with candies, lanterns, watermelon and reddish decorations with black characters meant to bring good fortune to the family.

'Most of the characters represent signs of hope and luck,' said Avis Chan Ting Ting, a sophomore exchange student from Hong Kong Baptist University who explained the origins and the traditions of this event at the Lunar Festival organized by the Baptist Student Center Tuesday night. The paintings she hung up in her room are intended to get rid her of misfortune. One of them simply reads, 'Raise your grades.'

Chan said every single thing about the celebration is meaningful, even food. Celebrants usually eat fish as the word itself is pronounced 'yu,' which in Cantonese refers to 'abundance.'

'We also make long noodles that we call 'long-life noodles,'' Tong Yu, a graduate student from China, said.

What is most obvious in this ceremony is the importance of family.

Chan said that the young people bring their whole family to visit the senior generations. 'They show their respect and concern.'

This reunion is not only an occasion for children and single people to bow to their ancestors but also to receive some money in little, red pockets. This tradition is also symbolic as the amount of money given must be an even number in order to bring good luck.

Also in Hong Kong, unmarried men and women walk around a plum blossom tree (the tree of New Year's Eve).

'It means that the following year, a lot of people will chase you,' Julia Chiu, a sophomore exchange student from Hong Kong, said.

Since New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are family ceremonies, Asian students such as Nguyen who have the chance, go back home to meet with their relatives. For others, it is more difficult.

For the sixth year and to prevent any homesickness, the Baptist Student Center provided the students an opportunity to celebrate the lunar festival Tuesday night. A group of Baptist Student Center workers, professors, administrators and students gathered to eat dumplings, rice and other typical dishes such as the 'Chopchae,' a mixture of sweet potatoes with others vegetables and a special Korean sticky cake.

'They all really miss it -- almost everyone calls their home,' Libby McAnear, missionary-in-residence at the Baptist Student Ministry said. 'We try to make them feel a little bit more at home and give them a place to celebrate their festival.'

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