Happy Lunar New Year from AALEAD!

By: Diana Tran, DC Middle School Program Coordinator

February 1st, 2022 marked the first day of the Lunar New Year. Cultures across Asia celebrate Lunar New Year in different ways and even go by different names. Korea celebrates Seollal (설날) while Vietnam rings in Tết on the first day of the lunar calendar. Tibetans calls Lunar New Year, Losar (ལོ་གསར་), while their northern neighbors call it Tsagaan Sar (Цагаан сар, Cagán sar / ᠴᠠᠭᠠᠨ ᠰᠠᠷᠠ). In China, Lunar New Year is commonly referred to as Spring Festival (春節; 春节, Chūnjié) and has historically been celebrated over fifteen days, with several different traditions, taboos, and events – including the Lantern Festival!

(Click here to learn more about the Lantern Festival and about how to make a paper lantern for yourself!)

While Lunar New Year is celebrated differently across the world, it has always been a time to celebrate and come together. This year, AALEAD’s DC team put on a virtual celebration to ring in The Year of the Tiger. We were joined by middle and high school students, Board members, and Akil Vohra – AALEAD’s Executive Director.

Inside our virtual space, we watched The Great Race and learned about the origin of the Chinese zodiac animals. Our guests had a Great (Virtual) Race of their own as they competed in teams. Who would come to prevail in our Lunar New Year games – Team Tiger, led by one of our youth Tange, or Team Ox, led by another youth, Lauren.

Our first game of the night was a team word jumble. Think you can solve it yourself? Try it out!

Click here to see the Answer Key

The rest of the night was all about Lunar New Year’s superstitions, taboos, history, culture, and food as our teams went head to head in Charades and Jeopardy.  It was a tough battle for Team Ox as Team Tiger took home the first two games, but Team Ox prevailed in Jeopardy with a whopping $200 total. (Trust us, Jeopardy was tough!) For example –

  • Did you know that China did not celebrate Lunar New Year for a 13-year period from 1967-1980, an era now referred to as the Cultural Revolution?
  • What Chinese character do people hang on their door upside-down to symbolize that “luck has arrived?” It’s the fortune symbol – fu!
  • What Korean soup represents cleanliness and a fresh start? Correct answer is… Korean Rice Cake Soup, or tteokguk!
  • This Vietnamese dish is made from glutinous rice, which is rolled in a banana leaf into a thick log with pork or vegetable filling, traditionally eaten for Tết. Well, did you get it? It’s Bánh tét!
Tteokguk (떡국), photo courtesy of KimchiMari

Bánh tét, photo courtesy of Vietnam Motorbike

But despite the numbers, tallies, and scoreboard, we had a wonderful time with our guests! Team Ox and Team Tiger – be on the lookout for your prizes! They will be distributed to you in the coming weeks. For those of you who were not able to join us, we invite you to spin the Wheel of Fortune to unlock your outlook for the Lunar New Year.

From the DC AALEAD team, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We look forward to each and every moment that we are able to build our diverse community and share precious memories with all of you.

In the spirit of sharing pieces of our heritage and cultural pride with one another, we would also like to pay a nod to another event being celebrated this February – Black History Month. As an organization that serves Asian-American youth, we feel incredibly lucky to be able to work alongside students and uplift stories revolving around solidarity and positive identity development, regardless of our racial and ethnic backgrounds. As we send wishes of happiness, success, and abundance to those that celebrate Lunar New Year, we also send our utmost gratitude, appreciation, and love for the Black community. As we transition away from our Lunar New Year festivities, we reflect on our nation’s past and stand behind the Black community, not only in February but year-round.

Happy Lunar New Year & Happy Black Brilliance Month!

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