Lunar New Year, a holiday celebrated across many Asian countries, highlights traditional values and aspirations for families, such as good fortune, health and prosperity.
This February, several Asian student organizations will host events on campus.
On Feb. 9, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., students will have the opportunity to embark on a vibrant journey to celebrate this holiday at the Lunar New Year Party in Lamberton Hall.
Hosted by the Asian Cultural Society, the largest Asian cultural organization on Lehigh’s campus, the event will act as a space for students to discuss and share stories of diverse Lunar New Year festivities and traditions.
Ryan Javier, ‘26, the co-events coordinator for the Asian Cultural Society, aims to spotlight different cultures on campus through events and collaborations with other multicultural clubs to create an inclusive campus community.
For Javier, this celebration creates a meaningful connection with his family and heritage. Participating in the traditions at Lehigh helps fill the void left by missing the warmth of home.
“It is important for me to bring (traditions) to campus because I remember last year as a freshman, it was the first time being away from home and not celebrating Lunar New Year with my family,” Javier said. “It was one of the things that made me homesick.”
Eating authentic food plays an important role in the celebrations. Javier said people often eat fish because it represents abundance and prosperity. Dumplings are traditionally eaten because they resemble money pouches and are said to represent fortune. Two-foot-long noodles represent the wish for a long, happy and healthy life.
At the Lunar New Year Party, students can embrace the tradition of rich drapery. They’ll weave the threads of family, fortune and cultural appreciation through food catered by local restaurants like U & Tea and Wonder Kitchen.
Still, Asia is not a homogenous region. By fostering a cross-cultural dialogue, Javier and other event organizers aim to enhance attendees’ understanding of global differences while inspiring an appreciation for the beauty found in the unity of Lunar New Year.
Angela Tibudan, ‘26, a member of Southeast Asia at Lehigh and the Asian Cultural Society, is Filipino with Chinese ancestry. She said events like this unite Asian students and different Asian student organizations, which include the Asian Cultural Society, Southeast Asia at Lehigh, Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers, the Vietnamese Student Association, the Korean Student Association and Lehigh Lions.
“While I cannot speak for all Asians who celebrate the Lunar New Year, I can still speak about and be proud of my family’s traditions,” Tibudan said. “To me, (the Lunar New Year Party) not only unites Asian students through a common thread, but allows us to share our diverse and contrasting experiences and celebrate them. It’s about learning, appreciation and meaningful cultural exchange. No one Asian country celebrates this holiday in the exact same way.”
Tibudan said the aspiration for events like this is to bridge together domestic and international students and to find commonality in cultural familiarity.
She said she hopes this event will show the Lehigh community that anybody is welcome to celebrate.
“We don’t have to be divided by difference, but instead appreciate it and celebrate such an important holiday together in the spirit of unity and family,” Tibudan said.
Karen Liang, ‘25, a first-generation Chinese American and co-founder of Lehigh Lions, said the purpose of the club is to promote the celebration of Lunar New Year, provide Lehigh students with the opportunity to have cultural experiences and learn about cultural values.
“Lion dance is an important ritual in many Asian traditions that is believed to bring good luck and help drive away evil spirits,” Liang said. “The lion holds great symbolism within tradition because it represents wisdom and courage. As performers, we mimic the lion’s movements in a lion costume to tell a story and ‘scare away the evil spirits’ to bring prosperity and fortune to the audience.”
Matthew Zhang, ‘25, president and co-founder of Lehigh Lions, said lion dancing is a representation of Chinese culture and the spirited energy felt during the Lunar New Year.
Lehigh students also have the chance to usher in the Lunar New Year with the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA).
On Feb. 10 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Building C on Mountaintop Campus, the CSSA will host their Chinese New Year Fair. The fair will include 14 booths showcasing interactive cultural games like Mahjong, Jiànzi and Chinese jump rope.
Attendees can also expect to indulge in complementary authentic food and beverages shipped directly from China.
Red envelopes containing cash, referred to as “red pocket,” are gifts typically presented during the Lunar New Year. Attendants who participate in 10 booths will have the opportunity to win a monetary prize of up to $88 in celebration of this tradition.
Ariel Huang, ‘24, the president of CSSA, said this celebration transcends a mere fair; it’s a cultural journey designed to infuse the spirit of the Lunar New Year throughout Lehigh’s campus.
Huang said CSSA is trying to build a more diverse environment with the hope that students can relax, have fun, celebrate together and share the joy of the holiday.
Huang hopes to recreate memories that were once shared with family and share them with the community.
“We are just trying to build a huge cultural interaction with the community here,” Huang said. “(Lunar New Year) is an opportunity for sharing, learning and experiencing the joy and the culture of one of the most important Chinese festivals.”