Emma Willard School students presented common Lunar New Year practices in different regions—including China, Hong Kong, Korea, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam—during Morning Reports on Friday, January 20.
One universal aspect of these celebrations is the exchange of well-wishes and good fortune from the old to the young—or, in the case of Emma Willard School, the somewhat older to the somewhat younger!
This year at Emma, the Lunar New Year Celebration was once again organized and hosted by the Asian Student Union (ASU) in partnership with the Multicultural International American Student Union (MIASU). Together, these clubs held myriad activities for all students to engage with beginning on Friday evening, including traditional games and crafts, a talent show performance, and snacks and cuisine from the many different cultures. Lastly, as is custom, student attendees received red “lucky” envelopes with messages of good wishes from faculty and money inside.
Members of the Emma campus community continued to observe the New Year holiday throughout the weekend, with more hands-on fun such as a dumpling-making workshop on Saturday and students dining out with staff at local Asian restaurants on Sunday.
We invited our student and adult organizers of the Lunar New Year Celebration to reflect on this year’s event and the importance of the holiday to them:
Guangyu Hao, Chinese language instructor and adult advisor for ASU Club
“It made me so happy to see how happy our students were with this year’s Lunar New Year! Being new to Emma this year, I didn’t know exactly what the students would expect but I did know my own goal was to make the celebration as inclusive and welcoming as possible. We first focused on involving the students and different departments in the planning, including work that began early last semester with student club leaders, the Office of Equity and Inclusion, and the dining hall. Second, we worked hard to dispel the common misconception that Lunar New Year is synonymous only with Chinese New Year—so many countries and cultures celebrate this holiday and I am proud of the many ways we intentionally represented and recognized them. This year’s celebration was such a success thanks to everyone involved!”
Hanh N. ’24, ASU club leader
“As one of the hosts of our school’s 2023 Lunar New Year Celebration, I’m very proud of how this celebration turned out. We had an amazing student turnout with clusters coming into the lower dining hall by 7:00 p.m. for our fun stations set up by ASU members and heads. Some stations were calligraphy with traditional pens, chopstick games, paper-cutting crafts and so much more! The cheers of the students as their friends picked up with chopsticks the last piece of candy in the bowl and the bustling chattering brought a smile to my face as all my tedious planning came to life. As 8:00 p.m. slowly approached, we gathered all the students into the Talent Show by ticketing, with Kellas Commons slowly filling up with a sea of colored clothing from the lucky red qipaos to the flowery ao dai and hanbok…. Between each performance, a raffle was drawn and the lucky winners would get to pick a red envelope from the beautiful white tree that resided in the corner of Kellas. The end of the talent show did not signify the end of the celebration though. Students turned on the speakers and music which led to group dancing on the floors as some also helped clean up the decorations and leftover foods. The many smiles and laughs on the faces of many students will never be erased from my mind, a product of our weeks-long planning that turned out to be more than 100% worth it!”
Haiqi Evangeline W ’23, self-styled “Dumpling-Making Master”
“The Chinese New Year celebration at Emma this year has truly been an immersive experience. Though New Year is a huge holiday back home, I have never thought that I can experience such an authentic one half a world away from my family, but by the joined force of enthusiasm, we made it possible. ASU and MIASU hosted all sorts of events, the dining hall prepared delicious food, and parents came in to help share the dumpling culture with students through the hands-on weekend activity. I am very grateful to be able to share such a meaningful part of my culture with my friends through all the activities. That weekend flashed by like a blissful dream; I’m still savoring every moment slowly as my friends periodically ask me to order the Chinese cuisines that we had at New Year’s.”
Meng-Yu Emily C. ’26, Yifei Iris L. ’26, Weiqi Clara X. ’26, Ruixuan Ivy C.
’26, performers at the Talent Show
“We enjoyed ourselves a lot during the Lunar New Year celebration. As freshmen, this is our first Lunar New Year celebration in Emma, so everyone was pretty excited about it. We prepared to sing the song ‘A Little Happiness,’ which is a classic song for Asians. When we arrived at Kellas Commons, there were so many people with different cultural backgrounds, but they were all here for the celebration. Even though we’re far away from home, the crowded people and the Lunar New Year theme decorations gave us a big surprise. There were various kinds of Chinese snacks and drinks, such as boba. As we were singing, the crowds also sang with us. At that moment, everyone waved their hands to the music, and it was touching. These celebrations have brought us a lot of ‘happiness’ and unforgettable memories.”
Junghyun Jacey K. ’24, activity station leader
“I took the role of leading the Jegichagi station and it was nice seeing students who are not familiar with the tradition learn Jegichagi and have fun. Initially, I was worried that people would not show up to our station as Jegichagi is a challenging game. However, I was wrong. The station was soon crowded with students and faculty members who were eager to learn Jegichagi and beat the best record made by previous challengers. Our record number was 7. Kudos to Ms. Hao!”
To close the Lunar New Year festivities, Kira H. ’26 and Agnes C. ’26 addressed the community at Morning Reports on February 3, describing the final celebration of the New Year: The Lantern Festival. This celebration honors ancestors and promotes reconciliation, peace, and forgiveness. “During the festival, houses are festooned with colorful lanterns,” Kira and Agnes explain. “Often with riddles written on them; if the riddle is answered correctly, the solver earns a small gift. Festival celebrations also include lion and dragon dances, parades and fireworks. Small glutinous rice balls filled with fruits and nuts, called yuanxiao or tangyuan, are eaten during the festival. The round shape of the balls symbolizes wholeness and unity within the family.”
Thank you to the students and adult leaders of ASU and MIASU for sharing these special traditions and celebrations with the Emma community!
To see more photos from Lunar New Year celebrations, visit our SmugMug.