Chinese Students celebrate Lunar New Year away from Christ School

Chinese students enjoy a Lunar New Year dinner in 2019.

The Lunar New Year has passed here in China, but this special holiday has also spread to a lot of places around the world. Hundreds of years ago, China used to be one of the most prosperous countries in the world, so a lot of Asian countries came to visit and to study. Thus, Chinese cultures started to spread in Asia. Korea and Japan were the most influenced, as their cultures and languages are pretty similar to Chinese languages and cultures even today. Although Chinese cultures and influences diminished in a lot of places around the world, the idea of Lunar New Year has remained. A lot of countries in Asia celebrate Lunar New Year, and Asians in Europe and the Americas celebrate Lunar New Year as well.

However, as this culture travels around the world, the forms and styles of celebrating Lunar New Year differ.
After the break out of COVID-19, most of the Chinese students in Christ School traveled their way back home in China, learning remotely at home. This situation gave the Chinese students a chance to celebrate Lunar New Year with their families after years of studying abroad and missing out this precious time with their whole family. However, several Chinese students chose not to come back to China, but instead stayed in the U.S. with their relatives and friends, so we were interested in how they celebrated the Lunar New Year in the U.S. and how that experience differs from celebrating the Lunar New Year in China.

Tom Tang ’21, who stayed in his aunt’s house in Chicago this year, told me what this year’s celebration was like. For the Lunar New Year, a very important concept is reunion. For traditional Chinese people, there’s nothing better than getting together with their families at the end of the year and celebrating.

Tom Tang (not pictured) enjoyed dinner with his family in Chicago.

While the cultures differ in different areas, one universal culture is to have a huge dinner with the whole family on the new year eve. This dinner might be the biggest one with the most delicious plates within the whole year. This upper image is from Tom, as their family eats the new year eve dinner at their own house in Chicago. The lower image is from me, in China. Those plates contain abalones, groupers, Pelodiscus sinensis (Chinese softshell turtle), chicken, and roast goose. From all these ingredients, you can tell the importance of this dinner.

Tom Tang (not pictured) and his family gather at the dinner table.
My Chinese New Year dinner. Delicious!

Other than having a big dinner, people also decorate their homes. In China, a lot of people buy red lanterns and hang them around their houses. In Chinese history, red and/or luminous things scare off the evils and bring happiness for the following year. However, it can look a little bit scary at night.

Red lanterns can sometimes make houses look a bit scary.
Tom Tang’s family used white light bulbs instead of red lanterns.

In Chicago, Tom’s family couldn’t get red lanterns since these traditional Chinese items are not that popular in the U.S., Tom’s family decided to get beautiful light bulbs and use them like the red lanterns.

Inside the house, decorations are needed too. Most of the families put up red pieces of papers. The sentences around the door are blessings people write down for their family next year. These blessings usually say stay safe, stay healthy, get rich, etc. In the middle, it’s the word “Fu”, which means “happiness” in general.

The gate to my home, with blessings for good new year.
The flowers in my living room.

In the house people also buy beautiful flowers, since flowers are very important in China, and certain flowers have their own meanings.

Although the Chinese students were celebrating Chinese New Year at home with their families, and are having a great time, memories of Chinese New Year for the past three years still emerge. There weren’t such things as COVID-19, and everybody was back on campus at Christ School.

Stolz Hall provided delicious food for our Chinese New Year dinner in 2019.
Chinese students enjoy a Lunar New Year dinner in 2019.

Stolz Hall used to provide us with a lot of food for traditional Chinese “hotpots.” The experience of celebrating Chinese New Year with friends and classmates is really unique, as we had a great time with everybody there. All of us want to thank Christ School for thinking of us and providing such opportunities for international students to feel more at home. We hope future international students at Christ School get to have the same experience we did!