The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


Students and faculty ring in the New Year with an international celebration

Despite the rain, Monday, January 13 was anything but dreary for students, faculty and guests who gathered at Dean Waite’s house for an International New Year Celebration.

Attendees enjoyed food from Asian restaurant Sun Penang in Dean Waite’s kitchen, which was draped in red banners in honor of Lunar New Year on January 31. This holiday occurs in the lunar calendar, which is based on the cycles of the moon, and is celebrated in many Southeast Asian countries. In these cultures, red symbolizes good luck for the New Year.

Lively conversation about New Year customs and superstitions unique to each guest’s culture dominated the room. For example, Dean Waite said that in her home country, Malaysia, people are not allowed to sweep on the first day of the New Year because a person might accidentally sweep good luck out the door.

In many cultures, both family and food are important to ringing in the New Year. In Japan, as exchange student Haruna Yabuuchi explained, families gather together on January 1 to visit a shrine and make resolutions for the New Year. Families then feast on foods that represent good fortune for the coming year. For example, “We eat black beans,” Yabucci said.  “It is very good for health.”

Bohyeon Lee described the family orientation of Lunar New Year in South Korea.  “We gather in the father’s parents’ house and have a ceremony for our ancestors,” Lee said.  A family then prepares and eats food together. Each year, many South Koreans eat rice cake soup, which represents the passing of another year.

Vice President of Academic affairs Dr. Wenying Xu explained the tradition in China of making dumplings on the first day of the Lunar year. “We would make hundreds of them,” she said.  Families from all over a neighborhood would try each other’s dumplings and compare them.

Americans are not without their food-related traditions. Junior Catherine Giles and Hallie Arena, Assistant Director of Student Affairs, agreed that eating sauerkraut on the first day of the calendar year brings good luck.

Many other cultures also have celebratory practices for the New Year. According to Lee, the large bell in the Bosingak pavilion in Seoul, South Korea, is rung at midnight on New Year’s Eve. According to exchange student Sherin Sabu, people in Kerala, India gather each New Year’s Eve for a carnival, burning a larger-than-life-sized cotton replica of Santa Claus to bring good fortune in the New Year.

The final tradition discussed was that of giving money in red envelopes on Lunar New Year. MBA students Xie Yu and Hongtian Xue explained that elders give red envelopes to younger people and that the criteria for being a “youngster” depends upon regional culture. For example, in some places red envelopes are given only to those who are not yet married, and in others they are given only to those who do not yet have a job.

Dean Waite ended the evening by distributing lucky red envelopes to everyone in attendance. All of the envelopes contained $2 except for one that contained $20. Haruna Yabuuchi was the lucky recipient of the special envelope.

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