Bringing Home to Campus: Students Celebrate The Lunar New Year

Courtesy to Xihan Zhang

From Feb. 10 to 12, students participated in Lunar New Year festivities hosted by the Swarthmore Chinese Society (SCS) and Swarthmore Taiwanese Association (STA) to welcome the incoming Year of the Dragon based on the Chinese Zodiac

Lunar New Year is celebrated in many parts of the world. Different variations of the holiday exist across countries, including Korea’s Seollal, Vietnam’s Tết, and Malaysia’s Tahun Baru Cina. The Chinese Zodiac consists of twelve animals that rotate on a cycle. This year marks the dragon: symbolizing luck, authority, and prosperity. 

At the annual Swarthmore Dumpling-Making Session and Chu Xi Dinner on Feb. 10, students cooked dumplings on-site and ate authentic, catered Chinese cuisine from local restaurant Noodle 88.

Yeyoon Song ’27, an attendee of the Dumpling-Making Session, discussed how food bonded community members together at the event.

“I think food is a great resource to bond with – that was the main thing [I got out of the event] besides eating good food,” he said. 

STA Co-President Madeleine Wang ’26 elaborated on the significance of dumpling-making to the Asian community. 

“It’s something your grandparents taught you and grew up with. Moving into college, [people] might not have that similar experience or have dumplings present, especially at the Dining Center Commons (DCC),” Wang said. 

Zeyu Xie ’27, who also attended the Dumpling-Making Session, reflected on the importance of the Lunar New Year to him and his family. 

“You usually celebrate with your family. I’m trying to recreate that feeling [of being with] my family.”

Wang shared similar insights as Xie. 

“We’re apart from our families, which makes us feel very distant from home,” Wang said. “What this event accomplished is bringing [a sense of] community to Swarthmore students. Even if they aren’t surrounded by their family, they’re surrounded by people who enjoy the same culture and traditions and can share their own experiences. And I think it bridges the remoteness of being here at college.” 

In addition to bridging the distance between students and their families during the new year, SCS Co-President Frankie Li ’26 organized the Couplets-Writing Session on Feb. 10 for students to reconnect with their cultures through Chinese calligraphy. 

“[The event] provided an opportunity for people to write ‘zhù nǐ hǎo yùn,’ which means ‘good luck’ in Chinese. Students also wrote the single character ‘fú,’ meaning good luck, on red paper.” 

Li also explained the next steps after writing couplets and ‘fú.’ 

“People put [the papers] on the wall upside down. In Chinese, ‘upside down’ and ‘arrive’ have the same pronunciation, so sticking ‘fú’ reversely means ‘good luck is arriving’.”

SCS also collaborated with Crumb Cafe on Feb. 12, serving fried dumplings, tang yuan (a traditional Chinese dessert made of glutinous rice shaped into balls), and three different flavors of boba. 

Abby Hong ’27, an attendee of the Crumb Cafe and SCS collaboration event, reflected on having to spend the Lunar New Year away from family. 

“Every year my family would eat dinner together and we would have rice cake soup among other traditional Korean dishes,” Hong said. “[It’s] pretty sad that I wasn’t able to celebrate with my family this year, so I’m glad that I got to celebrate it with my friends at least.” 

In the future, Song said that he hopes for larger events surrounding the Lunar New Year and drew comparisons between Swarthmore and Haverford celebrations. 

“My brother is the founder and leader of the Korean Cultural Club in Haverford, and their Lunar New Year is a lot bigger, with more planning,” Song said. “I hope we have something similar to that of Haverford’s, maybe even bigger because, you know, Swarthmore is better than Haverford.”

Furthermore, Song recommended that marketing for future Lunar New Year celebrations be broadly marketed to all students, not just those from East Asian cultures. 

“I’d like it [to be publicized] more to the entire student population rather than just the Chinese or Korean students here on campus.”

Li shared SCS’s plans for next year’s celebrations, which included collaborations with Tri-Co Chinese organizations and local nonprofits in Philadelphia’s Chinatown. 

“Maybe next year, we will collaborate with them and get more funding to [invite] singers or celebrities on campus,” he said.

Wang also hoped for STA to collaborate with peer organizations in the Quaker Consortium and also outlined STA’s plans for this spring, including a night market event and a movie screening event celebrating the legalization of gay marriage in Taiwan.

“We didn’t have funding last semester because we were a new club, but this semester we have a bunch of new events,” Wang said. “We’re hoping to branch out to [University of Pennsylvania] or even the other colleges in the Tri-College Consortium, like Haverford and Bryn Mawr, and create a community that is not just Swarthmore, but also beyond our campus.”

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