In this post, medical student members of the Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association at the Larner College of Medicine—Karena Nguyen, Dennis Dea, Jiayi Luo, William Hsu, and Megan Zhou—write about the importance of celebrating Lunar New Year, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and increased violence against Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States.
What is Lunar New Year?
The Lunar New Year begins with the first new moon of the lunar calendar. Because the lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon, the date of Lunar New Year changes from year to year, typically falling between mid-January to early February.
In 2022, Lunar New Year starts on February 1, and it is the Year of the Tiger based on the Chinese 12-animal zodiac cycle. It will be a great year because the tiger represents passion, confidence, and courage. Honoring the Asian culture, Lunar New Year focuses on family, as well as hope for happiness, longevity, and prosperity. These values are celebrated through foods and traditions that are passed from generation to generation.
Also known as “Spring Festival,” the Lunar New Year is celebrated in many East and Southeast Asian countries and known as Chunjie (Chinese), Tet (Vietnamese), and Seollal (Korean). People honor different traditions and celebrations particular to the region in which they live or from which their family originates, but the main theme is to honor ancestors and family, and to hope for better things in the coming year.
Customs & Traditions
An endearing custom of the Lunar New Year is to give out red envelopes containing token amounts of money. The red envelopes are a tradition eagerly anticipated by everyone, especially young children. The holiday culminates with the Lantern Festival with lots of dances to the celebratory sounds of firecrackers. Like last year, this year’s worldwide celebrations will be carried out with public health considerations in mind in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but that does not take away from the ultimate meaning of family and good will.
Celebrating with UVM Larner Med’s Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association
This year, the UVM Larner College of Medicine chapter of the Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association (APAMSA) will be hosting a Lunar New Year celebration on Wednesday, February 9, from 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm in room 200 of the Medical Education Building (MedEd200). Although COVID continues to limit how we can be together and celebrate, we strive to provide a place of community during this holiday. There will be food, Lunar New Year-themed trivia with prizes, and arts and crafts. Gift bags filled with popular Asian snacks will be given out.
For many Asian-Americans, Lunar New Year evokes warm feelings of celebration, tradition, and family. Although many of us are far from home and in Vermont for the first time, we hope that this event will provide some sense of that. More importantly, we hope that this celebration can reinforce the sense of community among Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) students in spite of the ongoing difficulties with COVID-19 and adjusting to the rigors of medical school.
Additional Lunar New Year Events in Vermont
Despite the small AAPI population in Vermont, such communities have managed to hold some impressive Lunar New Year’s celebrations in the past.
Last year, the Asian Cultural Center of Vermont in Brattleboro organized a festival featuring calligraphy, dragon dance, and foods from Korea, Vietnam, and China. This year, unfortunately because of the escalating pandemic, it is difficult to hold such large street-based events. As a result, the Asian Cultural Center is sponsoring virtual Lunar New Year cooking demos for the community to participate in from the safety of their homes. Live tutorials on making Hezi pocket pies, dumplings, and dim sum are some attractions. You can register here.
For those looking to celebrate the Year of the Tiger in person, the Asian Student Union at the University of Vermont will host a Lunar New Year Celebration on Saturday, February 5, from 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm in the Davis Center Grand Maple Ballroom.
Solidarity & Support for the AAPI Community
As we start our celebration of Lunar New Year, we would like to take some time to emphasize solidarity during these times.
The term AAPI is fantastically broad—referring to a diverse group of people with such a vast range of experiences and perspectives that we, on the APAMSA leadership, primarily of East and Southeast Asian descent, cannot fully comprehend.
Violence against Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States is escalating, and these horrendous acts do not differentiate among ethnicities. On January 15, barely two weeks ago, an Asian woman was pushed to her death in New York City’s metro system, completely unprovoked by a man she did not know. There has been a 361% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes over the past year in New York City alone. It is our hope that we can unite and support one another through these difficult times.
Lunar New Year is first and foremost a celebration of hope and family. We in APAMSA hope that we will become a family—a family that can and will support one another through the present difficulties and any challenges the future may hold. This sense of community is more important now with the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases and the increasing anti-Asian hate. Lunar New Year marks the end of the previous year, a taxing year that has left all of us exhausted. However, this very same celebration also welcomes a new year, a new beginning.
The Year of the Tiger is here.
Let this year give us the confidence and courage to thrive in the face of adversity and continue building this community together.