UB’s HSA and TSA co-host Chinese New Year event

Students share favorite New Year memories, from red envelopes to delicacies


Even more than waking up early to watch the parade of dragon dancers move through the streets of Chinatown, Cindy Huang’s favorite part of celebrating Chinese New Year back home in New York City is the red envelopes filled with money she would receive from her family.

She found a taste of home on Tuesday evening, when students who entered the Chinese New Year celebration in the South Lake Village community room were handed red envelopes filled with chocolate wrapped in gold paper and a Starburst.

The Hong Kong Student Association (HSA), in collaboration with the Taiwan Student Association (TSA), held a Chinese New Year’s celebration on Tuesday. About 60 people attended the celebration– eating, conversing amongst each other and playing pool. 

When students walked into the event they were greeted with a miniature red envelope, a Chinese New Year tradition. There were many authentic foods present including leen go – a Southeast Asian delicacy comparable to rice cake.

HSA President John Lao, a junior exercise science major, recalled past Chinese New Year celebrations where he and his family would stay up the night before New Year’s Day in eager anticipation for the beginning of the New Year. Lao’s father always made dumplings as the family waited.

“My favorite delicacy that is served a lot for Chinese New Years is Bak Chai. It’s Chinese vegetables with pork mixed in,” Lao said.

The Chinese New Year is a celebration of the old and new and takes place in the form of a festival. This year is the Year of the Monkey, one of 12 animals that appear in the Chinese zodiac in relation to the Chinese calendar.

HSA and TSA collaborated on the event because the two countries in Southeast Asia are so close to one another and both celebrate the holiday.

“It’s an hour boat ride between the two countries,” Lao said. “Even though the countries are close and have similar Chinese New Year celebrations, there’s not one singular way that either country celebrates it.”

Even though Hong Kong and Taiwan are near each other geographically, the cultural differences between the two are vast. It is tradition during Chinese New Year to wear bright colors, as bright colors are believed to bring good luck. White is not acceptable as it represents death and bad luck in general. Black isn’t acceptable either as it represents evil.

Huang, a senior business major and public relations coordinator for HSA, described what the Chinese New Year parade was like for her growing up in New York City.

“People have sparklers waving around and some people wear tradition Chinese bright red clothes,” she said.

There are usually big family feasts on New Year’s Eve. The food that’s served for New Year brings good luck, except for porridge, as it’s thought to bring bad luck in the form of poverty. Huang’s favorite food that she eats around New Years is any type of seafood as her family makes a variety of lobster, shrimp and crab.

Kevin Cheung, a freshman computer engineering major, remembered when he was younger how excited he’d be around this time of year. The holidays gave Cheung the opportunity to see certain family members that live far away.

“I loved reuniting with my grandmother, because she’d make the best inside out dumplings,” Cheung said.

He described how his grandmother would stuff dumplings with chicken and pork. She would make enough for twice the people there, which meant that he could have as much as he wanted.

Cheung also explained to concept of “glass noodles,” another Chinese New Year custom that is thought to bring good luck when eaten. It’s also usually served with dry shrimp.

Beyond the material things that happen during Chinese New Year, Huang emphasized the importance of people coming together to celebrate in unison. Beyond religion or any other social construct, she said people are able use Chinese New Year to get closer to one another regardless of their differences.

Jamal C. Allard is a features staff writer and can be reached at features@ubspectrum.com