On Feb. 4, Lee University’s Asian Council celebrated the Lunar New Year with a public event held at the Centenary room.
Attendees enjoyed a piano performance by graduate student Lawrence Wong and a vocal performance in Mandarin by sophomore violin performance major Aner Luo.
Asian Council members welcomed attendees with small, red envelopes that included a number for a drawing later in the evening, where winners would receive Starbucks gift cards or a decorative bowl.
Associate Professor of Sociology Dr. Arlie Tagayuna said that the envelopes are handed out to kids and others in Asian communities as a ritual of the Lunar New Year.
“There are superstitions that if anyone starts the new year with fortune, there’s a blessing,” Tagayuna said. “So there’s the red pockets for people to put money in so it’s kept for them throughout the year and so they can have fortune throughout the year.”
Tagayuna said that the Lunar New Year—also referred to as the Chinese New Year—is not exclusive to China and is celebrated in many different Asian cultures.
“It’s all about coming together as family members,” Tagayuna said. “It’s about relationship and valuing the traditions of where we come from, coming back home and honoring the folks who we left behind while also honoring the people we are with at this point in our life.”
Senior TESOL major and Asian Council President Kailin Yu said that the raffle drawing brought her the most joy.
“[The raffle] is a new thing. We’ve never done it before even though it’s a real tradition [for the Lunar New Year],” Yu said. “I grew up with my mom working in government, and every [New Year] we would have a party. The government didn’t host it, but her leader would host the party, and all the people would be together and bring their kids. I’m always the one to hold the box and [the raffle tonight] brought back the memory of that.”
Yu values the opportunity to come together and celebrate the New Year with Asian Council and Lee students.
“I came to America when I was 15 to study in high school, and the first year was lonely,” Yu said. “I feel like this year we built a good environment, and everyone that came here wanted to eat the Chinese food. And I can feel that everyone here liked the food and the environment.”
Senior biology education major Jesse Miller said he appreciated the event and the environment created by the Asian Council.
“I think this event was cool, and I liked the music that the pianist played in the beginning,” Miller said. “The food was very good. They said it was all homemade, which I think adds to the authenticity. I think it’s always fun to taste an authentic cultural meal.”
The meals consisted of pork or chicken dumplings along with beef or chicken-fried rice.
Tagayuna said he enjoyed cooking the food with the Asian Council.
“While we are preparing food, we are creating a family—even though we come from different places. Being together and making dumplings and cutting vegetables for fried rice was almost like we were recreating the family we don’t have because they’re so far away,” Tagayuna said.
For those interested in Asian Council but who have reservations on account of their ethnicity, Yu said that anyone is welcome.
“I feel like a lot of people—a lot of Americans—that hear about us feel like, ‘oh Asian Council, there’s a lot of Asian people in there,’ so they will not be involved or don’t feel welcome,” Yu said. “I will say that Asian Council now has more Americans than Asian people. I feel it’s a really good place to make friends.”
For those interested in joining Asian Council, check out their Facebook page.
The club meets in Walker Memorial Building 201 every other Wednesday, starting this week at 8 p.m. on Feb. 6.