The diversity of a Lunar New Year celebration

By Ha Nguyen, Development & Communications Associate

Photos courtesy of AALEAD Staff

Every year as January starts to wrap up and February approaches, the atmosphere is filled with excitement, hope, and anticipation for the upcoming Lunar New Year. This year, February 5 marked the first day of the Year of the Pig, the twelfth and last animal of all zodiac animals.

Asian Pacific Americans are often getting lumped together into one category as a monolith, despite each ethnicity having a rich diversity of history, tradition, and culture. In fact, not every Asian ethnicity observes Lunar New Year. East Asian Lunar New Year celebrations are based on the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar occurring in late January or early February. Those who fall under this category are: Chinese New Year (Spring Festival), Korean New Year (Seollal), Mongolian New Year (Tsagaan Sar), Tibetan New Year (Losar), Vietnamese New Year (Tết)

Meanwhile, South & Southeast Asian New Year celebrations have dates based on the solar cycle (“solar new year”), thus their new year is marked by the solar year, which occurs at the time when the Sun enters Aries around mid-March or mid-April. Those who fall under this category are: Bengali New Year (Pohela Boishakh), Burmese New Year (Thingyan), Cambodian New Year (Chaul Chnam Thmey), Lao New Year (Pi Mai), Nepali New Year (Nepal Sambat), Sinhalese New Year, (Aluth Avurudda), Tamil New Year (Puthandu), Thai New Year (Songkran)

At AALEAD, we celebrate our differences as well as our similarities. Through after school, summer, and mentoring programs, AALEAD supports youth from over 23 different Asian ethnicity. When youth encounter mirrors of their own background & experience as well as windows of difference, they broaden their view of themselves and others.

For the past few weeks, AALEAD after-school programs across DC, MD, and VA have provided different lesson plans & activities for youth to build confidence in their identities by celebrating and reflecting on their own traditions while building respect for other expressions of culture:

Youth creating paper lanterns, decorating masks & making lucky envelopes for friends and families

Youth looking at different posters explaining the story of the zodiac calendar & enjoying egg roll, mandoo and hot tea with peers

Youth setting intentions & values for the year by creating a prayer flag and finding their ‘dosha’ (body energy) through Ayurveda, a traditional alternative medicinal practice

Youth learned about various traditions such as calligraphy, lantern-making, lion dances at the Kennedy Center

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