Mercersburg Academy held a variety of Lunar New Year celebrations in January, giving Asian students the opportunity to not only enjoy the holiday but also to share their culture with the campus community.
The Lunar New Year–also known as Chinese New Year–is a 15-day celebration of the arrival of spring and the beginning of a new year on the lunisolar calendar. Considered the most important holiday in China, it is also widely celebrated in South Korea and Vietnam. Ancient Chinese tradition also assigns an animal to each lunar year in a cycle of 12 throughout the Chinese zodiac.
The 2023 Lunar New Year began on the date of the second new moon, Sunday, January 22; and this is the Year of the Rabbit, symbolizing longevity, peace, and prosperity.
Mercersburg celebrations began with a prelude to the Lunar New Year when the Asian Student Union (ASU) hosted a Food and Movie Night with Asian food on Friday, January 13, in the Simon Student Center. Chinese parents and students gathered to celebrate Lunar New Year on Sunday, January 22, at Prentiss Alumni and Parent Center at North Cottage, and the entire school celebrated the holiday during lunch on Monday, January 23, in Ford Hall with festive decorations and Asian food favorites. In addition, language faculty member Grace Abel P ’17 hosted “hands-on” Chinese cultural activities in Irvine Hall Tuesday and Wednesday, January 24 and 25, that included brush writing and paper folding of New Year’s greetings, sweet snacks, and festival music.
ASU’s event was a great success, according to co-leader Jordan Yuan ’24. “A rough estimate of the people who attended would be 200,” he said. While the club has 145 members, “We welcome all school community members to participate in its activities.”
The event was not only a prelude to the Lunar New Year but meant also to “build up the atmosphere of the celebration of Asian cultures,” said Yuan.
ASU members came early to decorate and prepare food before the crowd arrived. The offerings included homemade dumplings, potstickers, fried rice, teriyaki chicken, and spring rolls. Snacks included fruit jellies, Asian drinks, popsicles, Chinese rice cookies, and Korean chips.
“The event was a great way to communicate our culture to the school community, because sharing food can bridge the gaps between cultures and create new relationships and understanding,” said Yuan. “The movie, Everything Everywhere All at Once, was also a good representation of Asian cultures.”
A few days later, the Lunar New Year celebrations continued when about a dozen parent volunteers threw an exceptional party for Chinese students with an elaborately prepared feast, interactive games, lucky draw, and a red envelope distribution to students–a long-standing custom symbolizing the continuation of good fortune in the new year. The party ended with goodie bags for every student that were filled with snacks and topped with a stuffed rabbit.
“In Asian culture, Lunar New Year is the one holiday much like Thanksgiving in the U.S. when all family members, regardless of how far away they may live or work, return home to celebrate with their loved ones,” said Marie Hao, mother of Anderson Wang ’26. “Although it’s not possible for our students to physically go home, we feel it is important to celebrate this very special holiday by getting them together at Mercersburg, their home-away-from-home,” she said.
The traditional menu items were delicious and meant to “bring back fond memories of good times spent with family and friends in the past,” according to Hao. “Dumplings are a must for any Lunar New Year celebration, so we served homemade dumplings for everyone.”
The purpose of the event was to allow the students to keep the tradition of the Lunar New Year celebration alive, no matter where they live, according to Hao. In addition, they simply want the students to feel loved. “This is the first Lunar New Year away from home for many of the 9th graders in our group. For the older students, many have not been able to go home for an extended period of time due to the pandemic. We hope the celebration, though only a few hours in length, filled their hearts with love and joy, shortened the distance between them and their families, and left long-standing memories they will cherish.”