A line stretched across the second floor of the Texas Union building as hundreds of students piled into the Shirley Bird Perry Ballroom to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
Inside, students ate free food, played games at booths set up by Asian student organizations and watched student performances.
“The Lunar New Year Festival is actually just a celebration of all the Asian cultures that celebrate it,” said Michael Guevara, chairperson of the Asian American Culture committee. “There’s multiple Asian cultures that do celebrate it, so this is kind of our way of making sure that people who are not able to go all the way back home have a way of celebrating the festival here.”
The Lunar New Year Festival is an annual event held by Campus Events and Entertainment’s Asian American Culture committee. It celebrates the first day of a new year in a traditional lunar–based calendar. The festival theme, Year of the Dog, is based off of the Chinese zodiac sign associated with 2018.
In previous years, the festival was held in the Student Activity Center Ballroom, but Guevara said due to the growing number of attendees, the event was moved to the Union.
“My freshman year I think we brought in 300 or 400 (people), sophomore year we brought in 500 to 600, and last year we blew it out of the water and we almost reached 1,000,” exercise science senior Guevara said. “People were complaining the venue was too small, so we decided to get the Union ballroom instead.”
Taylor Kwon, vice president of Buddha’s Light International Association Austin Young Adult Division, a Buddhist interest organization on campus, said members of the organization like the ability to connect with other students during the festival.
“Since we do Lunar New Year celebration at the temple, we only have one time per year to celebrate on campus,” exercise science senior Kwon said. “So for us to be here, it’s more like we get to celebrate the culture with other students on campus.”
Event coordinator Christy Zhu said the festival appeals to people seeking to celebrate their traditions as well as those wanting to explore a new culture.
“I think that people find it interesting, it’s a new experience,” advertising sophomore Zhu said. “If they don’t get the culture part (and) they themselves don’t get to experience it, they want to come and see what it’s like.”