Year of the Dawg

Actually, it’s the Year of the Rabbit, but come celebrate Lunar New Year with Garfield!


Art by Leo Carlin

Tết in Vietnamese. Chūnjié in Mandarin. Seollal in Korean. Medyanotse in Tagalog. These are all different names for Lunar New Year (LNY). Although it originated in China some 3,500 years ago, LNY is celebrated widely in other Asian countries, particularly in the East and Southeast. Unlike New Year’s Day on the Gregorian calendar, which always occurs on January 1, LNY does not occur on a fixed date; It varies depending on the Lunar calendar. 2023, the Year of the Rabbit, will start on January 22. 

In the US, LNY is not a nationally recognized holiday, making it hard for some Asian Americans to celebrate it. For the individuals whose memories of LNY depend solely on their parents’ and relatives’ recreation of the holiday, they may not know what the “original” LNY traditions are. LNY customs vary from country to country, although there are general traditions that everyone knows. During LNY, there are dragon dances, firecrackers, and red envelopes. Families gather, attend temple (if they’re religious), and feast. Food varies by country, but there is significance behind the dishes. They correspond to longevity, wealth, or good fortune. 

A common LNY superstition is sweeping your house before the holiday, to sweep out the bad luck of the old year and make way for the good luck of the new year. Some people, including Vietnamese Student Association President (VSA) Kenny Phan, dismiss LNY superstitions, while others, such as Chinese Student Association (CSA) Co-President Rebecca Dion, have a couple that are near and dear to her heart. “You’re never supposed to cut noodles in Chinese culture because it’s supposed to be the longevity of your life and if you cut them it’s like cutting off your lifeline. So usually you eat really long noodles,” Dion said. 

In preparation for LNY, the Asian-American/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) clubs will be giving Garfield a makeover with traditional LNY decorations. VSA officer Gia Nguyen described some of the things they’re planning on using. “We’re thinking about decorating[..] with [peach blossom] branches, trees, and red lanterns. And because it’s the Year of the Rabbit right now, little rabbit themed decorations,” Nguyen said.

CSA Co-President Forrest Wu also explains the significance of the color red for LNY. “Red is good. It scares off all the bad spirits,” Wu said. 

Garfield’s AANHPI clubs will be hosting a school-wide LNY celebration on January 25. “[The event is] intended to be a school-wide event largely because of the large populations of students at Garfield who celebrate Tết, who celebrate Lunar New Year, and its various forms,” Phan said. “There’ll be a bit of a potluck style. Bring your own food and we’ll just come together and have some snacks. [There’ll be a] bunch of dried fruits, that’s the traditional candy all over East Asia.”

In previous years, Garfield’s AANHPI clubs have held large parties where students participate in fun activities, such as lantern making, potlucks featuring cultural foods, and fire noodle tastings. These events aim to expose Garfield to AANHPI culture, which is their goal with the LNY celebration. “[We want to be] continuing the celebration with second generation [Asian] Americans,” Wu said.

For more information on Garfield’s AANHPI clubs and cultural events, visit the clubs’ Instagrams listed here: VSA: @garfieldvsaclub; Korean Student Association (KSA): @ksa.hq.ghs; Japanese Student Association (JSA): @garfield.jsa; CSA: @ghs_csa; South Asian Student Association (SASU): @garfieldsasu; Filipino Student Association (FSA): @ghs_fsa.