BY MOLLIE SIMON
For the clever and shy individuals out there, this year is for you.
The Lunar New Year on February 19 will kick off the Year of the Goat according to the zodiac, which divides the calendar into 12-year cycles.
“People born in the Year of the Goat are known as kind-hearted, sensitive, indecisive, and a bit more subtle than those born in the Year of the Horse, which is coming to a close,” Asian American Student Association (AASA) president Alyssa Pel said.
Pel, a senior Biology major from Lilburn, coordinated this years’ Lunar New Year Festival at UGA, which took place Sunday, February 15 in Tate Grand Hall and brought together a crowd of over 200 people for an evening of Asian food, student performances, and a fashion show highlighting traditional outfits.
“The vision of what we wanted was a big event where everyone could come in and learn a little bit more about our culture and get to share it with people who understand it,” Pel said. “It involved a lot of collaboration and reaching out to other organizations on and off campus.”
This is the second time AASA has hosted a festival of this scale and their first year in Tate. They outgrew the Memorial Ballroom from last year when their attendance was twice what they had anticipated.
Although Pel said individuals often think simply of the Chinese New Year, not every Asian culture celebrates the new year and those that do, including Vietnamese and Koreans, each have their own traditions.
“My parents are very Americanized, and I am very Americanized, but recently my grandparents moved in with us, so they brought some of their older traditions into the house,” junior Management Information Systems major Jacquelynne Huynh from Lawrenceville said. “There is always something new and neat to learn.”
Huynh said she attended the AASA festival to support friends and because of her involvement with the Vietnamese Student Association.
She said her favorite parts of the evening were a performance of the song “Masterpiece” by Pel, Megan Asadian, Jay Kim, and An Vu and the “main skit” which involved a student-produced short film about a race between the animals of the zodiac.
Other performances included a Vietnamese traditional fan dance, a rendition of the song “Tong Hua” in Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, and English, and a dance to the pop song “Uptown Funk.”
Rachel Lilja, a senior Psychology major from Warner Robbins, earned applause during an impressive amount of whistling for her performance of Jackie Chan’s song “Endless Love” along with student Chris Nguyen.
Lilja, the AASA treasurer, said she has been whistling for 10 years, although this was her first time doing it in a performance.
The whistling, which complimented the song’s Mandarin and Korean, sounded more like a musical instrument than a voice.
“The festival is definitely a different environment since you can sit down and eat and enjoy the performances and get to see another side of students and their hard work and talent outside of just sitting in a dorm studying,” Pel said.
For Lilja, the event means even more than just a celebratory meal.
“I joined AASA as a junior because I wasn’t really connected to the Asian community. This introduced a friend group without the pressure of needing to know Mandarin,” she said.
While Pel said it is hard for some students to go home for holidays like the Lunar New Year, connecting to culture at UGA is not impossible, and she said spending the holiday at school simply means celebrating with a different family.
“In high school yes, it was hard to keep up with traditions, but in college with organizations like the AASA and Vietnamese Student Association, I think it is a little bit easier,” Huynh said.
In addition to performances and the fashion show of clothing from Afghanistan to Japan, Tate Grand Hall was decorated to best welcome the year with lanterns, drawings, and centerpieces decked out in red and gold, which Pel said symbolize good health and fortune.
Attendees of the event also shared a meal from Wok Star Restaurant including rice, noodles, dumplings, egg rolls, fortune cookies, and, in keeping with the cultural infusion theme of the night, a dessert of Insomnia Cookies.
“Food is a big thing for the New Year. Our family usually cooks everyone’s favorite dish, and it is almost like our Thanksgiving,” Pel said.
Lunar New Year: https://storify.com/mrsimon22/lunar-new-year-festival