Lunar New Year Celebration Accents Superstition, Community





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Throughout her entire life, UC Berkeley Senior Cheryl Chin always celebrated Chinese New Year, and this year will be no different.

Today marks the beginning of the month-long celebration of the Lunar New Year, in honor of the zodiac character the Horse. Like other students on campus, Chin plans to celebrate the new year with those she loves.

"It's been a tradition in our family for forever," Chin says.

Chin says family and close friends will gather at her house this weekend to eat Chinese food and play games to celebrate the new year.

"It reminds us of where we came from," she says.

Chin says the celebration extends beyond race and that those outside the Chinese community are welcome at the dinner.

Tradition and superstition play a large role in how students will celebrate the new year.

Those born this year are supposed to be good with conversation and money handling, according to Chinese tradition.

Joo-Hyun Lim, a UC Berkeley junior, says in Korea, traditional rice cakes are eaten and money is given to young people in red envelopes.

"You kind of greet the older people," Lim said, describing the process. "You bow to them and (they) give you money."

The red envelopes are given with golden markings to symbolize the passing of good luck.

Chin says envelopes are usually passed from the elder, married generation to the younger generation in a family.

"My family joked it was to give good luck for the incoming new year and best wishes for getting married quickly," she says.

Though the new year has been an important family celebration for Lim, she says this year will be different.

"If I were with my family, I would celebrate. But since they are in Korea and I'm here, I won't be celebrating," says Lim, a foreign-exchange student.

But Lim will be following an old Chinese superstition, taking most of the day off from work. The superstition claims activities done on New Year's day will determine the rest of the year. If one works on the day, they will be working for the rest of the year, according to the superstition.

"I'm just going to relax," Lim says.

Several student groups will be holding dinner events this month in celebration of the new year.

Last Friday, the Taiwanese Student Association gathered at Encore Hot Pot City on University Avenue to discuss the upcoming year.

"We're students here; we don't have family here, so we gather with friends," says Katie Chung, secretary of the group.

The students gathered around a hot pot, cooking meat on the open barbeque.

Junior Yosen Lin says he must work today, so the gathering was his way of celebrating.

"I get to see old friends I haven't seen since last semester. It's a nice way to celebrate the semester before it gets too busy," Lin says.

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