Iowa Wesleyan University students, faculty and staff celebrated the Lunar New Year with traditional food, games and gifts at Jumbo Buffet in Mt. Pleasant on Wednesday, Feb. 6.
The 2019 Lunar New Year starts on Feb. 5, but IW’s celebration was rescheduled for Wednesday because of the weather. International students from Nepal, China, Australia, Mexico, France, Thailand and elsewhere joined together to ring in Lunar New Year and wish each other good fortune.
The Lunar New Year typically falls in late January or the first three weeks of February.
Everyone was given two oranges for prosperity, a sweet rice candy for a sweet year and a red envelope containing information about Lunar New Year and two gold coins. Red was worn and decorated with because it is considered to be one of the luckiest colors.
Chinese Lunar New Year 2019 is the Year of the Pig, which is the last of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. IW’s celebration was complete with pig snout masks and sugar cookies decorated to look like a pig with a snout made of marshmallow.
“I was encouraged to see all these different cultures and countries coming together as an Iowa Wesleyan family,” said Elaine Tan, director of service learning and academic support at IW.
Lunar New Year is very family-centric, with children taking an entire month off school and relatives traveling from far and wide to celebrate together, Tan said. She thinks a lot of international students struggle with being far away from home during the Lunar New Year, but she hopes they can feel a part of the IW family.
Traditionally during Lunar New Year, Tan said everyone goes home and reunites with family.
“The story goes back to China, where the younger generation would go out and work elsewhere in a different state. (Lunar New Year) would be the time of year to go back to their hometown and be with family and have family time,” Tan said.
Tenzin Moenski, a senior IW student from Nepal, said as many as 50 of her family members will get together for Lunar New Year. Moenski said while it’s hard to be away from family, she’s kind of used to it, and enjoyed ringing in the New Year with her peers.
Jun Kok, a sophomore IW student from Australia, said it’s a big deal for his family to get together for Lunar New Year, and they usually travel back to Malaysia if they have time.
Kok said his family cooks all morning and afternoon, making at least eight dishes for the Lunar New Year celebration. An important dish to have at a Lunar New Year is fish, which Kok said is a symbol of a good year ahead.
Jane Wu, visiting scholar from China at IW, said that she could feel lonely on the Lunar New Year so far away from home, but instead she got to celebrate with her IW family.
Wu said at her home in southern China, her family celebrates with a big dinner on the Lunar New Year’s Eve. The next day, they sacrifice food to the ancestors. They then go to the temple to pray for health, wealth and good fortune for the whole year.
For the next seven days, Wu travels with her family visiting relatives.
On the wall of Jumbo were two vertical du lian Chinese door banners that read: “Thousands of good, millions of good, every year is good,” and “Thousands of smooth, millions of smooth, all things are smooth,” Wu translated.
“It’s a blessing for the whole year,” Wu said.