Jan. 22, 2023 was the start of the year of the rabbit and the cat, and Muhlenberg held an abundance of activities to celebrate Lunar New Year from Jan. 24-26. Students were able to participate in dumpling making, eat a special Lunar New Year dinner at Wood Dining Commons, stuff their own rabbit or cat stuff-a-plush, play casino games and more.
Raja Darain Khan ‘25, president of the Asian Student Association (ASA) said that the term Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, “can be seen in its literal or metaphorical meaning where literally it refers to the cycles of the moon whereas metaphorically it refers to paying homage to your ancestors and your family and paying your respects to the past.”
The ASA and International Student Association (ISA) started collaborating on designing the events for the Lunar New Year celebration at the end of the fall 2022 semester. Khan stated that “a [planning] committee was formed with people from varying Asian cultures to better represent how people celebrate the Lunar New Year across Asia with members of ASA, ISA, and the overall student body serving on it voluntarily.”
Starting on Jan. 24, dining services hosted a dumpling making event. According to the General Manager of Dining Services John Pasquarello, “over 50 students participated in a Muhlenberg tradition, our annual Dumpling Fest where more than 1,600 dumplings were made in the Red Door Catering Kitchen in Seegers Union under the supervision of our culinary team including Han Ho Wang from the Wood Dining Commons, Executive Catering Chef Anthony Onorata and Catering Director Jenell Butz. We were happy to partner with Tom Janis, the Director of Muhlenberg College International Support for this annual event, and we served over 1,000 students for dinner that night, it was amazing.” On Jan. 26, the Wood Dining Commons also featured specialty menu items including Lion’s Head Soup, Asian brisket, an Asian tofu bar, steamed dumplings, vegetable fried rice and mochi.
A cultural panel was held on Jan. 25 where Muhlenberg students were able to share their traditions about how they honor Lunar New Year. The participants in this year’s panel included Xindy Wu ‘26, Roy Hsu ‘24, Chau Dinh ‘24 and Fuka Aizawa ‘26. Wu shared an amusing story about one Lunar New Year when she was in elementary school. “I remember one time I went to Chinatown in New York City as a kid. One of the traditions was to make really loud noises, such as banging on pans or drum-like structures. What the kids would do is get party poppers and they would throw them on the ground, step on them, and it would make noise immediately on impact. One time I brought these party poppers to school. Some of them fell on the ground and when students stepped on them it made really loud noises. My teacher was mad and said that there would be consequences for the person who brought the party poppers, but she never realized that it was me.”
When Wu was asked about stories that have been passed down from her family, she explained the story behind why red is frequently used during Lunar New Year. She stated that “There was a village that was ransacked every year by a monster. This monster would ruin the crops and destroy everything. One year, a villager started to use loud noises, and put up red flags and banners to ward off the monster.”
“As the villagers started doing these things yearly, these are now examples of typical festivities that happen during Lunar New Year.”Xindy Wu ’26
Jan. 26 was celebration night at ‘Berg. ‘Berg students had the opportunity to play casino games such as blackjack and the traditional South Korean game Ddakji where one player tries to make the other player’s paper flip over on the floor. Other activities included a “make and take section” where students could undertake calligraphy and paper cutting, and have the chance to win raffle baskets. Furthermore, red envelopes were also distributed that included a card explaining what a lucky money gift is. The card states that a “Lucky money gift is a monetary gift given during holidays such as New Year in many Asian countries. It is symbolized to expel evil forces and generate good luck for the entire year and is usually given out to the younger generation who are normally still in school or unmarried.”
Muhlenberg’s K-pop club performed “Fancy” by TWICE, “Into the New World” by Girls’ Generation and “Love Dive” by IVE. Samantha Tempkin ‘25, president of the K-pop club, talked about preparing for the Lunar New Year celebration. She said that “since the semester just started, we haven’t had too much time to learn new dances, so these are all dances that we learned last semester that we thought would be great to bring to the Lunar New Year Event. We had two rehearsals before our Lunar New Year performance as a refresher!”
“It was really fun getting back into the swing of things and we can’t wait to learn more dances and perform them for more events like this!”Samantha Tempkin ’25
Celebration night came to a close with a karaoke event. Overall, thanks to careful planning by students and staff members, the College was able to successfully commemorate Lunar New Year and teach students the traditions and activities typical of Lunar New Year.