For the 4.3 percent of Athenians who identify as Asian, as well as many other students at the University of Georgia, this time of year may hold special importance as Lunar New Year is in full swing.
To both celebrate and raise awareness for the traditional holiday, UGA’s chapter for the Asian American Student Association will host its annual Lunar New Year Festival on Feb. 17.
Attendees of all ethnicities will be welcomed to have fun, let loose and celebrate the traditional Asian holiday which marks the beginning of a new year on the lunar calendar and lasts until the 15th day — or Feb. 5-19 in 2019.
Although invited her freshman year to join AASA by her cousin, it wasn’t until the organization’s Lunar New Year festival that really piqued junior human development and family sciences major Asia Chong’s interest to become actively involved.
Chong, now on AASA’s executive board as its secretary, said attendees should expect the same type of high-energy performances she experienced, as well as singing and dancing acts with traditional and non-traditional Asian instruments, skits written by the four emcees and small game shows between performances to keep the audience actively engaged.
Nia Nguyen, a junior advertising major also from Duluth, began participating with AASA her freshman year as a supporting chair and is currently the organization’s president. Being on the executive board for three years, Nguyen said she’s been involved with the planning of the event since her first year and believes this to be the most organized year yet.
While the program for the Lunar New Year festival will remain the same, Nguyen said this year’s event will have stronger ties to a more traditional celebration in terms of decorations and hopes to bring in a more informative element to the evening’s ceremony.
“Last year it was called the ‘Year of Us’ because it was the year of the dog and we are dogs … but I didn’t really see an overall meaning behind the event other than it’s AASA’s big event of the year and its Lunars,” Nguyen said. “So I wanted to give it more of a meaning this year and … I think attendees and members will have a really fun time experiencing a little of bit of home if you were to celebrate Lunars there.”
Traditional Lunar New Year festivities in Nguyen’s home usually include honoring various deities through food and monetary offerings, having a large family meal and the giving of red envelopes, which signify good wishes and luck. Since facilitating these practices would be hard for an event of this scale, Nguyen said the emcees are aiming toward educating attendees more about the history and cultural roots of the holiday to bring meaning to the event.
While UGA is home to 13 multicultural student organizations according to the university’s multicultural services and programs page, Nguyen believes there aren’t nearly enough cultural events happening throughout the year and views AASA’s Lunar New Year’s festival as important to “spread cultural awareness and inform students, whether [they] identify as Asian or not.”
For Chong, AASA has given her a sense of belonging in both culture and representation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau website, the Asian population in Duluth is close to six times greater than in Athens-Clarke County at 25.7 percent in 2018.
“AASA to me especially has made a difference in feeling more at home and … I think that AASA provides that representation for Asian Americans across the university,” Chong said. “And we have that taste of home also and I think that hopefully make our members more comfortable and have a sense of belonging here at the university.”