By Phoebe McPherson, Managing Editor
While the ball in Times Square dropped over a month ago, Friday night in the Memorial Union Building looked to Asian cultures to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
For the first time since its inception six years ago, the United Asian Coalition (UAC), the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) and the Korean Culture Club (KCC) joined forces to put on the event.
“Tonight’s event is, like, the first time that three organizations come together to focus on Asian diversity,” said Hui Ly, a Vietnamese student and one of the main organizers of the event. “It’s the first time that we came together to make the largest Asian celebration, the Lunar New Year, on campus.”
Members of the UAC, KCC and VSA all dressed in touches of red — a symbol of good luck in Asian cultures.
“In the first day of new year, usually Asian people wear red because it’s lucky and it brings them luck for the whole year,” Ly said.
From 5-6 p.m., a section of Union Court featured traditional Asian games, calligraphy and a photo booth where students could pose with giant tiger or dragonheads.
The crowds later moved to the Granite State Room for the main show, which lasted until almost 9 p.m. The room was filled with tables draped in red tablecloths and flags depicting different countries — something that was later used to call up groups for food.
Sophomore Leah Cautillo is a member of the UAC. Although her heritage is rooted back to Italy, she is learning Asian languages and thinks it’s important to understand other cultures.
“It’s important to be more knowledgeable of more cultures, and come together for a common goal of happiness, and like, we’re celebrating,” she said of Friday’s event. “I mean, [the Lunar New Year] is just different. Every culture has their own traditions.”
Freshman Elliot Chiang, a member of the UAC, added onto Cautillo’s point, motioning inside the GSR.
“We want people to be interested in our culture, and we can see that by the diverse group of people in the room,” he said.
Performances of the night included a Calvin Chin lion dance, Calvin Chin martial arts, an Angklung put on by the IILC, Dance Revelasian, the UNH HepCats, individual student performances and more.
On the back of each of the chairs was a red envelope with a small ram charm or a piece of paper inscribed with “Year of the Ram.” Some would later go on to win raffles (cameras and selfie sticks) depending on what was inside the envelope.
Traditionally, red envelopes are filled with money and given during the New Year, but Vice President of the KCC Liz Kim explained that her culture is usually more low key.
“For Koreans, it’s not such a crazy thing,” Kim said.
A video of well wishes for the Lunar New Year was presented during the show as well. Students in the MUB, faculty and staff, and organizations on campus all appeared on the screen for a short, “Happy Lunar New Year.”
“I feel like, just the representation of Asian communities is just really important to begin with,” said senior Hannah Hodges, an attendee who was there to support her friends performing in the show.
During an intermission, the masters of ceremonies, Auderien Monareh and Stefanie Cheung announced, “now for my favorite part — the food!”
One of the first in line was Sachiko Ikeda, a professor of Japanese culture at Plymouth State University. Her husband, Prentiss Phillips was ahead getting juice and is a professor with the ESL Institute on campus. The selection of food included sautéed vegetables, pork, chicken, pad thai, lo mein, egg rolls, sushi, rice cakes and coconut candies.
Sophomore Kelsey Nicholson sat a table in the back with her friends, waiting for food.
“I heard it [the Lunar New Year event] through the grapevine and I recently just met some people from the United Asian Coalition,” she said citing her time at leadership camp. “I think it’s going along great — I can’t wait to get some food,” she said. “But I’ve never experienced something like this.”
As attendees went up for their portion, the masters of ceremonies explained the origins of the dishes.
“It’s like, cultural representation…it’s widening your perspective,” Hodges said, explaining that as a part of the higher education community, students should want to be a part of events like this. “If you’re a college student, clearly you’re trying to pursuit some type of extended knowledge to begin with. So if you want to do something cultural, it extends it even more than to begin with,” she said.
“It’s not just Chinese New Year — it’s Lunar New Year,” Chiang said. “All we can do is try our best and spread education.”
For more information about the United Asian Coalition, Korean Culture Club or Vietnamese Student Association, visit each organization’s page on Wildcat Link.