Red envelopes filled with cash, fire crackers and dancing lions are all part of the Lunar New Year – the most celebrated holiday of the year in the Asian culture. An estimated 100,000 people in San Jose mark the holiday, including roughly 10,000 San Jose State students.
It’s the biggest day of celebration for a lot of Asian cultures. It’s like combining New Year’s, Thanksgiving and Christmas all together,” said Hien Duc Do, director of the College of Social Sciences Student Success Center and professor of sociology and interdisciplinary social sciences.
Although the Lunar New Year is celebrated by millions of people worldwide, there is some disagreement this year over which animal symbolizes the 2015 New Year. Some people believe it’s the sheep, while others say it’s the ram or goat.
It all began as a way for farmers to celebrate their rice harvest, reflect on the past year, and think about goals for the coming year. According to Professor Do, the holiday has significant meaning this year to the Vietnamese community because of the upcoming 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon this spring.
Every year, people continue the tradition by remembering ancestors, wishing family and friends prosperity and good health in the coming year.
Traditionally, everything is about good wishes, clearing out the past and preparing for a new start; a new year. We visit relatives and use the opportunity to show appreciation to family and friends,” said Alan Wong, director of development at the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering.
“We also celebrate with lots of food, big dinners, red round boxes of candies to great guests. You’ll see people wearing red clothes to symbolize new energy,” Wong said.
Sovannida Nau, ’16 Biomedical Engineering, has been celebrating the Chinese New Year since she was a baby. She’s always received a “lucky” red envelope filled with cash, including this year. She said she enjoys the special food and large family gatherings the most.
“I’ve grown up with this tradition and I really enjoy it. When I have my own kids, it will be something I do as well.”
There are several Lunar New Year events in the Bay Area this year. The largest ones are the Vietnamese Tet Festival at History Park San Jose on Feb. 28 and the Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco on March 7.
The Lunar New Year runs from Feb. 18-24.