Various student organizations on campus celebrated Lunar New Year on Sunday, Jan. 22 by inviting students to partake in themed activities and complimentary food. Students at Dartmouth rang in the Year of the Rabbit with an “absolutely packed social weekend,” according to vice president of the Dartmouth Chinese Culture Society Barbara Li ’22.
This year, offerings for Lunar New Year events were decentralized around campus, with organizations such as the Dartmouth Chinese Culture Society, the Agape Christian Fellowship and the Chinese Language House, among others, hosting their own events.
On Jan. 24, the Chinese Language House invited students from every Chinese class to celebrate, according to Chinese professor Alan Li. He said that activities included eating home-cooked dumplings and practicing calligraphy of the Chinese character 福 — which means “wealth” — for a year’s worth of “happiness and great fortune.”
According to Professor Li, the celebration was an “opportunity” for students of differing Chinese skill levels to learn from each other outside the formal constraints of a classroom.
“During a class, they practice speaking Chinese,” Professor Li said. “But this is kind of a real situation… to truly experience Chinese culture.”
Daniel Chen ’26 said that the Chinese Language House felt like a “home away from home.”
The event hosted by the Dartmouth Chinese Culture Society, which involved making dumplings and cultural trivia, drew in more than 70 people, according to Barbara Li. Despite roughly 20 more people showing up than the initially projected 50, she confirmed that they were able to “serve everyone.”
“Cuisine is a very big part of Chinese culture,” Barbara Li said. “For the new year, people, usually family, get together to cook a very, very big dinner. It’s hard to picture without seeing it for yourself, so we were used to cooking very big amounts, more than what people could eat.”
Agape Christian Fellowship also hosted an open-to-campus event that involved making and eating dumplings, according to chair Evan Yang ’23. He added that there was a “joy and fun” in preparing the dumplings themselves. President of the Korean Students Association Gyuri Hwang ’23 agreed, adding that their dumpling-making event was “cheap, easy to make, and community-oriented.”
While these celebrations were smaller and more intimate by design, both the KSA’s and Agape’s events attracted upwards of 30 people, according to Hwang and Yang.
“I don’t think [the KSA] had a Lunar New Year event in my freshman year,” Hwang said. “And then COVID hit, and we decided we needed to do something for everyone.”
According to Yang, the pandemic put programming for the festival on hold.
“It’s really hard to celebrate online, and to have… the kind of energy for celebrating an event like Lunar New Year,” he said.
Yang added, however, that the effects of the pandemic provided the impetus for Agape to regroup with a clearer purpose. He said that planning a Lunar New Year event after years of social isolation strengthened their feeling of “unconditional love” towards campus.
“This festival is very communal,” Yang said. “There are events that require people to come together; that’s kind of the purpose, we realized.”
The Sustainable Living Center hosted a house dinner of 25 people, according to SLC member Isabella Yu ’23. She said that the SLC also participated in the dumpling-making tradition, which she saw as a way of “sharing cultural knowledge.”
“Teaching friends how to fold dumplings and cook them was the joy of the evening,” Yu said.
Alpha Xi Delta sorority president Stephanie Do ’23 said she asked the members of her house to prepare family recipes for a Lunar New Year celebration, including “veggie dumplings, Vietnamese summer rolls, tangyuan and a Singaporean dish called lo hei.” According to Do, the personal nature of the event made it feel even more “meaningful and personal” to AXiD members.
Both Yang and Barbara Li said that it is important to welcome guests of all backgrounds into the celebration.
“We do a lot of outreach… always advertise on listserv… and emphasize openness,” Barbara Li said. “As long as you’re interested, pop by.”