Laurier International rings in the Year of the Rat with Lunar New Year celebrations

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Graphic by Jamie Mere

This past Saturday, Jan. 25, was the day of the Lunar New Year, also known as the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, a holiday widely celebrated in many Eastern Asian countries and considered by many to be the most important holiday in China.

The Lunar New Year is the new year based on the Chinese lunar calendar, which operates on a twelve year cycle with one of twelve animals assigned to each year in the cycle.

This year, we are ringing in the Year of the Rat, the first of the twelve repeating animals in the cycle.

“In North American terms, it’s like a combining of Christmas and Thanksgiving together,” said Ben Yang, Director of Global Engagement at Laurier.

To commemorate this holiday, Laurier International hosted events on both the Waterloo and Brantford campuses.

On the Waterloo campus, Laurier International hosted a free lunch for all international students, with a particular focus on students coming from countries who celebrate the Lunar New Year.

“So we had 119 students come for lunch at Laurier International. We served rice, dumplings – dumplings are a key Chinese new year food that people eat — and we had porage, soup, vegetables [and] Chinese pancakes,” Yang said.

The Brantford campus hosted a large dinner celebration with the theme “Martial Arts of East  Asia.”

“We’ve had another celebration, a big dinner event at the Brantford campus, where we had over 100 students from all cultural backgrounds who came to celebrate. We had singing, line dance, a professor from the history department, she actually gave a little talk on the history and the story about Lunar New Year,” Yang said.

As international students, you often do lose special occasions like the Lunar New Year and [other] special holidays. They miss their home, they’re not at home, they are not with their families. So what we try to do is create a home away from home kind of experience, of course we know we can’t really replace them getting together with their family, but never the less I think it’s a great opportunity for them to get together to connect with other students.

– Ben Yang, Director of Global Engagement at Laurier

Both events had communal meals as the focal point of the celebration, a tribute to the traditional celebrations of the Lunar New Year which consist of celebrations, cleaning and decorating and enjoying meals as a family.

These celebrations ensure that students who may not have the chance to be at home with their families to celebrate the holidays do not miss out entirely.

“As international students, you often do lose special occasions like the Lunar New Year and [other] special holidays. They miss their home, they’re not at home, they are not with their families. So what we try to do is create a home away from home kind of experience, of course we know we can’t really replace them getting together with their family, but never the less I think it’s a great opportunity for them to get together to connect with other students,” Yang said.

In addition to helping international students feel more at home, celebrations like the Lunar New Year give domestic students a chance to expose themselves to new cultures and traditions and broaden their horizons.

“The second contribution I think is to really create an intercultural learning experience. At Laurier International, we not only celebrate the Lunar New Year, we also celebrate Ramadan, Diwali, any kind of a major international cultural holiday, we will try to create an opportunity for students who are not from those cultural backgrounds to participate, for them to learn, for them to experience a holiday or a tradition or a culture that is different from their own,” said Yang.

“That is why we chose to create a more inclusive environment for students, not only for international students, but also for domestic students to learn from each other as well.”

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