Each year, Jerry Lan celebrates the Lunar New Year with his family by participating in cultural traditions: cooking and eating traditional meals, playing mahjong and receiving red envelopes filled with money from his elders.
But this year for Lan, a sophomore exercise science major and president of Taiwanese Student Association, the celebration will be drastically different. It will be Lan’s first time ringing in the new year away from his hometown in Taipei, Taiwan.
And as the Lunar New Year begins, Lan has family on his mind.
“My dad, mom, grandpa and grandma are pretty old,” Lan said. “I want to spend more time with them because there’s not much time that I have a chance to celebrate with them.”
As east and southeast Asian communities around the world ushered in the Year of the Dragon — by holding family gatherings, parades, ceremonies and other festivities, which will last for up to 15 days — Lan and many other UB students will be ringing in the Lunar New Year without their beloved traditions.
For Kelly Chen, a freshman architecture major, this year’s celebration will not be the same without her family’s traditional reunion dinner. In her hometown of Queens, New York, Chen and her family come together to welcome the new year by eating hot pot — a communal pot, where you cook your own choice of meat and vegetables in a broth.
While reminiscing about her favorite dish to eat during the Lunar New Year, Chen thought about her mother’s shrimp and pork dumplings. With the absence of hot pot and her mother’s cooking, Chen feels limited when it comes to finding Chinese food options in Buffalo.
“I definitely miss the food,” Chen said. “Buffalo doesn’t really have much good Chinese food or hot pot places to go to.”
In an effort to bring traditions and festivities to students on campus, many student organizations, including the Chinese Student Association (CSA), Hong Kong Student Association (HKSA) and Vietnamese Student Association (VSA), hosted Lunar New Year events across North Campus.
“Our goal for most events is generally the same, we want to bring together cultural communities,” Ricky Dong, a senior management information systems major and president of CSA, said.
While attending CSA and HKSA’s Chinese New Year banquet, Helen Zhang, a freshman engineering physics major, felt a strong sense of unity. Zhang was surrounded by students who were in the same situation as her.
“We’re away from our families, so [attending the banquet] felt like a good opportunity to connect with other people about the holiday,” Zhang said.
In order to maintain Lunar New Year traditions, many students will be wearing red clothing and putting up red decorations in their homes to honor the new year. In Asian cultures, the color red is associated with good luck and prosperity.
Students will also be following superstitions leading up to the celebrations in order to avoid bringing bad luck into the new year.
At her home in Buffalo, Hannah Pham, a senior biomedical engineering major and president of VSA, prepares for the new year by following a superstition that she always grew up doing with her family: cleaning her house to get rid of bad luck.
“We clean the house and make sure all of the trash is taken out,” Pham said. “We don’t clean on the day of [Lunar New Year].”
Performing specific tasks, such as cleaning your house and washing your hair, on the day of the new year is forbidden as it signifies getting rid of your good luck.
Despite the difficulties of being away from family during the holiday, many students plan to make the best out of their situation by creating new Lunar New Year memories with their friends. To ring in the new year. Lan plans on celebrating with his friends by emulating traditions from his home in Taiwan.
“I have some friends, we’re planning to have a dinner together,” Lan said. “We’re making dumplings and delicious food together.”
Even though many students and their families will be separated by distance this Lunar New Year, it won’t stop them from celebrating the holiday they love.
Jason Tsoi is a features editor and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jason Tsoi is an assistant features editor at The Spectrum. He is an English major with a certificate in journalism. During his free time, he can be found listening to music and watching films.