February 12 marked the first day of the 2021 Lunar New Year, one of the most important holidays for Asian cultures around the world. In recognition, the China Center for Social Policy hosted a virtual celebration, marking CSSW’s second annual Lunar New Year celebration event. The Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, the Office of Student Life, and the Asian Pacific Islander (API) Caucus served as cosponsors.
According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2021 is the Year of the Ox. Appropriately, the event opened with an illustration of an ox against a red background, accompanied by joyful music. Many of the guests and performers also wore red, a celebratory color in Chinese culture symbolizing good fortune and joy.
Professor Qin Gao, founding director of the China Center, welcomed the participants and shared her warm wishes for the new year. She acknowledged the many ongoing challenges associated with the pandemic but reminded all that the Lunar New Year is a great moment to recognize and reclaim one’s cultural roots as a source of strength and resilience.
Dean Melissa Begg wished everyone a Happy Lunar New Year, adding “May it signify all the things you wish for. May it signify a year of courage and wisdom.”
Assistant Dean of Student Services Cheiku Camara expressed how important customs can be in periods of stress. “Our global community shares challenging times,” he said. “Personal connections to our roots have allowed us to persevere in difficult times.”
Kristen (Tianyi) Liu, an MSW student who serves as one of the China Center’s administrative assistants, explained that although the occasion was originally a celebration of heaven and earth, it is now more entertainment-oriented. Following a very difficult year, the event offered a chance to be hopeful, joyful, and playful, she said.
In the spirit of Liu’s words, a number of presenters proceeded to share their particular country’s customs and traditions for celebrating the holiday.
Samanta Ratsavong, a first-generation Lao-American and a co-leader of the API Caucus, screened a short video with some highlights from last year’s in-person celebration, which was held in the Social Work Building and included games, music, dance, food, and a martial arts demonstration.
Appearing on camera in a hanbok (traditional Korean clothing), Christopher Won, program coordinator for the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, spoke about Korean food, traditions, and games, and taught everyone some Korean words associated with the holiday. He also introduced a traditional board game with the help of his dog, Tofu.
Laura Nguyen, a second-year MSW student currency based on the West Coast, shared a slideshow about how Vietnamese New Year, also known as Tet, is shared in her home community of San Jose, California.
Another second-year student Qianni Yu introduced two videos of exquisite dances by Columbia China Dance Association, of which she is president. One of the dances was recorded by her team remotely at different locations around the world and compiled and synced especially for the Lunar New Year celebration.
First-year student Yoomin Shin screened a couple of performance videos of breathtaking Korean percussion music known as Samulnori, performed by her and her teammates.
The event culminated in a virtual drawing for Lucky Money, the winners of which get to make a wish for the New Year and win prizes, and a trivia game run by Catherine Han, co-leader of the API Caucus, run on the game-based learning platform Kahoot! A dozen participants in the fast-paced game vied to answer questions related to the Lunar New Year quickly and correctly. The competition was so fast-paced that one participant commented, “I haven’t had this much fun since high school!”
The video of the 2021 Lunar New Year Celebration can be watched here.