Year of the Rabbit

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A Tenacious New Year Despite the frigid temperatures, students from all cultures celebrated the Lunar New Year with traditional Asian foods, music, and décor in the Texas Union Ballroom Thursday night.

When the guests arrived, the hosts of the celebration passed out red money envelopes. The envelopes resembled the ones adults give the children in Asia, usually accompanied by money. The envelopes at UT contained raffle and voting tickets for karaoke.

At the beginning of the celebration, the lights dimmed to prepare the stage for the traditional lion dance, where members from the local Asian community dance around energetically one behind the other, all while sporting a traditional lion costume.

Organized by the Asian American Culture Committee and the Chinese Student Association, the event attracted 10 organizations and more than 100 students. In the past, both groups have held separate celebrations for the Lunar New Year.

This year, Stephen Chiang, a biochemistry senior and association director, decided the celebration would be better if the two organizations combined resources to make a bigger festival. Millie Chen, exercise science senior and committee member, agreed with Chiang.

“A lot of students can’t go home to celebrate with their families,” Chen said. “Part of the reason we have this event is so we can celebrate together.”

Sophomore Truc Nguyen helped chair the event to coincide with the lunar calendar, which is based off the cycles of the moon. The difference between the Western and Eastern New Year can be up to a month and a half. Although the Western New Year is celebrated in the East, Nyugen said, the Lunar New Year is usually more elaborate.

“With the American New Year, we only have one day off,” Nyugen said. “Lunar New Year we have a week or so off. There are more decorations, more food, it’s the best time of year in Asia.”

The celebration is usually three to six days long, depending on the country. In Vietnam, Nyugen said, the first day is usually spent with family, the second with friends, and the third with teachers. In addition, every new year is named after one of the 12 animals of the Zodiac — this year is the Year of the Rabbit.

Communication studies senior Devon House attended the festival for the second time as part of the multicultural sorority Zeta Sigma Chi.

“They have very different traditions,” House said. “They’re very deep. My favorite is the lion dance at the beginning. It’s very educational, and it makes me feel closer to the [Lunar New Year].”