Student organizations at the University of Wisconsin are holding events to celebrate the Lunar New Year and the start of the Year of the Tiger, which began February 1 this year..
The Lunar New Year is celebrated in several Asian countries, including Singapore, Taiwan, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, and South Korea.
Lam Nguyen, president of the Vietnamese Students’ Association, said the Lunar New Year – called Tết in Vietnam – is important for Vietnamese students. because it means the beginning of a new year.
According to Nguyen, it is a good opportunity for Vietnamese students to come together to experience the community and remind them of their values.
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Nguyen named several important traditions of Vietnamese culture that will perform during this event. The celebration will include Banh Chung, a special rice cake with ingredients provided by farmers to represent the hard work of their people. Banh Chung also represents the earth, while their other cake, banh day, represents the sky. Nguyen said the cakes are a way to unite Vietnamese around the world as they know they will all eat the same food on the same day.
Along with eating special Vietnamese cakes, Nguyen said the VSA will also perform a skit at the event that illustrates the origin of the cakes. There will be a special prayer ritual to wish everyone good luck in the New Year at the start of the event.
Last year, the VSA was unable to hold in-person Tết celebrations due to the COVID-19 pandemic — and that’s why this year is special, Nguyen said. This will be the first time in two years that Vietnamese students at UW will have this sense of community celebrating their culture.
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Nguyen felt it could be a positive learning experience for those who are not part of the Vietnamese culture, and should attend anyway.
“Everyone on this Madison campus is welcome,” Nguyen said. “It’s free and open to all students, faculty and staff.”
The Malaysian Student Association is also holding a Lunar New Year event open to everyone at the university, according to MSA member Jai.
Jai said the aim was to give Malaysian students the opportunity to celebrate their heritage and traditions. Jai compared it to a homecoming event where families come together to celebrate and enjoy food together.
Jai said the event will include a special meal and dance, as well as Chinese games. Everyone is welcome if they pay a $10 fee – which further entitles them to attend any future MSAs for free.
The Japanese Student Association organizes the celebration of Setsubun on February 5 with karaoke, food and music. Additionally, the Chinese American Student Association will hold its annual Lunar New Year Banquet on February 12 with a number of activities and performances at Union South. Students, faculty and staff wishing to attend the Lunar New Year celebrations can RSVP here.