Thinking Outside the B(Ox)

Pandemic Alters Lunar New Year Celebrations


Nancy Nguyen, Staff Writer

Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese or Vietnamese New Year, falls on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. It welcomes the onset of the year of the Ox, but pandemic safety guidelines mean it will look different from years past. 

The start date of Lunar New Year is determined by the new moon that appears between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20. Lunar New Year is usually celebrated for up to sixteen days, but in the United States it is commonly cut down to about seven. Whether the holiday is to be celebrated with dragon dances like in Vietnam or by wearing red clothing like in China, the most prominent tradition is to gather with family and worship ancestors. 

However, due to the continued prevalence of covid-19, that tradition might not be fulfilled. “I feel as though I can’t wish my ancestors a proper happy New Year without going to Mass,” said alumna Lena Huynh (Class of ’16). “Even my Buddhist friends feel the same.”

Many families go to temple or church for their New Year practices, but unfortunately almost all of the religious operations will be canceled. “My favorite Vietnamese New Year tradition has to be going to church in the morning to watch the lion dances and eat at the community gathering after mass,” said Yen Tran (10). “I am so sad that there is no special New Year’s mass to raise money for the church in February.” 

But even with many of the common practices set aside, many believe it is still important to continue to celebrate the major holiday. “Culturally I would say for me, a person who has lived in the states for a long time, it is important for me and my loved ones to continue the tradition,” said Vietnamese Teacher and Vietnamese Student Association sponsor Tin Nguyen. “It only comes once a year.”

And there are many ways to safely celebrate with family through virtual platforms like Zoom. Ideas have included wearing all red, playing traditional music, watching virtual lion dances, and all sorts of crafts for the children. 

But for many, the best part of the holiday is the lucky money packaged nicely in a red envelope, which many families are still doing this year.

According to Amanda Chu (11), “It is very, very common to receive red envelopes on New Year’s Day as a way to wish each other happiness, luck and prosperity.”