Students celebrate Lunar New Year with traditions

Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 3, 2003

Students tried to recreate the festivities of home as Asian countries welcomed the Year of the Goat with fireworks, beating of the drums, decorations and food Saturday. University students celebrated with nostalgia the Lunar New Year by trying to observe the traditions of their families back home.

The Lunar New Year begins on the first new moon of the New Year and ends on the full moon 15 days later, culminating with the Lantern Festival. The holiday falls on a different date each year because it is based on lunar and solar movements.

This year, the New Year fell on Feb. 1 and Asians all over the world renewed hopes for good fortune and prosperity in 2003 - or year 4701, according to the Lunar calendar. New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are a family affair marked with reunion and thanksgiving. The celebration is a religious ceremony to honor Heaven and Earth, the gods of the household and the family ancestors.

Koreans focus on the family as they celebrate the New Year, dressing in traditional clothing called hanbok, and kneeling and bowing to their ancestors and elders in a ceremony called charye.

The children partake in saebae - a form of greeting by bowing to elders - to wish them good luck. Chinese children share this same tradition of receiving money or saebaedon in Korea for every bow.

"It was my second New Year's away from family and Hong Kong," said Bo Youn Song, a junior in the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and international student from Hong Kong.

"Although I ate traditional New Year's food, I missed a lot of things I used to do during Chinese New Year. I missed going to the flower market to buy flowers, ranging from chrysanthemums to peach blossoms. I miss the warmth of family and friends wishing the best for New Year - and definitely the food."

The holiday starts on New Year's Eve with a reunion dinner to pay respects to the ancestors, whose spirits - along with the living - welcome the New Year. This symbolizes family unity and honors past and present generations.

"I called my father and best friends in China," said Bo Qin, a junior in the College of Architecture and Urban Planning, who has family in Beijing. "In the background I could hear fireworks. There are fireworks all day long."

The Lunar New Year is also called the Spring Festival, marking the end of winter and ushering in spring. Tet is the New Year holiday observed in Vietnam while the Koreans celebrate Sulnal.

No meal is complete without dduk gook in Korea. Traditionally prepared by the women in the family one day before all the family gathers, dduk gook is a rice cake soup with meat and vegetables.

"I miss home and traditional food, especially dduk gook," Ji Young Bae, an LSA junior from Korea said. "I also miss saebae money and buying gifts with that and playing yutnori, a traditional Korean game."

"I miss charye, remembering my ancestors and thanking them for the fact that we were born from them," Song said. "And because of the amount of effort they gave to improving the quality of their lives, it has brought us to where we are today."