By PHONG LY
Lunar New Year (also known as Chinese New Year) is right around the corner. People around the world are getting in gear to celebrate. Here at Drake, the Asian community is also getting ready to celebrate it in their own way.
Sophomore Angela Dinh said her family often goes to their local church and celebrates with friends and family.
“A group of people from the Vietnamese church usually sets it up,” Dinh said. “My mom would always make a bunch of Banh Chung to give to people, so I help her with that process as well.”
Banh Chung is a traditional square-shaped Vietnamese sticky rice cake made out of sticky rice, mung beans and pork belly wrapped in banana leaf.
Dinh said her “absolute” favorite thing to do come Lunar New Year is to watch lion dancing.
“Ever since I was little, I loved lion dancing because of how cheerful it looks,” Dinh said. “It’s really mesmerizing and an exhilarating experience for me.”
This festive new year celebration usually comes with a lot of food. Traditionally, there are the two main dishes: Banh Chung, which symbolizes the earth, and Banh Day, which symbolizes the sky. Dinh said she isn’t a big fan of Banh Chung, but said she would eat a lot of other dishes.
“I love eating fried rice, banh bot loc and I absolutely love che thai,” Dinh said. “I will never be tired of che thai.”
Another large part of this new year celebration is the handing out of red envelopes, which contain money. This is called “lucky money,” “Li Xi” in Vietnamese and “Hong Bao” in Chinese, as the elder members of the family hand it out to their children as a token of good fortune for the upcoming year.
“Almost every Vietnamese person does lucky money in Davenport, Iowa,” Dinh said. “Before I came back for the spring semester, I visited my two godmothers to wish them a happy new year, and they gave me so much lucky money.”
This year, Dinh is going back home to celebrate her mom’s birthday and Tet early this year with her family. The Vietnamese community often calls Lunar New Year “Tet.”
“I am also celebrating it next week after Tet with my friend back at Drake,” Dinh said. “She is bringing me to the Buddhist temple she goes to since they have a party there as well.”
Junior Michelle Nguyen and her family usually gather together and make Banh Chung before New Year’s Eve.
“Additionally, we also go to Vietnamese temple and help them decorate for Tet with the apricot blossom and peach blossom flowers,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen said her favorite activities during the holiday celebration include singing the traditional new year songs on the first day of new year and receiving lucky money from the elderly. According to Nguyen, Tet is all about family.
“It is the time where family members gather together and tell each other what we accomplished from the previous year, and what will be our goals in the next year,” Nguyen said.
This year, Nguyen said she hopes she can maintain a good GPA and wishes for her parents to have better health than last year.
Tet usually mean different things to different people. Angela Dinh sees it as a chance for a new start.
“New Year for me is a chance to improve myself,” Dinh said. “It’s like a whole blank book, and I can choose how it will be written and see how my story changes.”
Image of Drake student Angela Dinh| Courtesy of Phong Ly