The student newspaper of Clark University

The Scarlet

The student newspaper of Clark University

The Scarlet

The student newspaper of Clark University

The Scarlet

A Forgotten Holiday at Clark? Recognizing the Lunar New Year

February 9th was the last day of 2023. How could it happen? To students from countries celebrating the Lunar New Year, February 9th marked the end of the year of the cat and welcomed the new year of the dragon. Along with other Vietnamese students, we threw a small party with traditional Vietnamese foods and listened to Vietnamese music. In Vietnam, the lunar new year is called “Tết”. We counted until the clock turned midnight, signifying a new coming year, and said “Happy New Year” to each other.

Our mailboxes are filled with emails saying “Happy New Year”. My Facebook Messenger was inundated with wishes from my friends and family. However, I did not see any cards or emails from Clark University, sending wishes and nice words from the school. 

Is the Lunar New Year a forgotten holiday at Clark? There have been no emails, no social media posts even when the New Year has been over. 

The Lunar New Year is not only celebrated by Vietnamese students but by many other Asian student groups and Asian American families. To many Asian people, the Lunar New Year is the most important festival of the whole year. Coming to some Asian towns like Chinese towns or Ktowns in many American cities, you can see how important the Lunar New Year Festival is. According to the Pew Research Center, there are around 5.4 million Chinese Americans and 2.3 Vietnamese Americans in the whole country. Worcester does not have a China town but this city has a huge population of Vietnamese and Chinese descendants and many of them are also studying at Clark. I wonder how could Clark forget the Lunar New Year.

Indeed, Clark does not forget other holidays of other countries and cultures. Yom Kippur was celebrated on campus, School of Professional Studies threw a big party on the Dewali which is an important holiday for Indian students. When I first came to Clark, I was so excited when I was given a chance to encounter different cultures through different programs throughout the school year. From early February, my mailbox was overwhelmed with news of Clark’s Black History Month Program. However, I could not hide my disappointment when the keyword “Lunar New Year” only appeared in the newsletter “What’s happening at Clark” with an activity of the Asian Student Union. There has been nothing official from the university.

Clark constantly talks about diversity and cultural intelligence. I even took a course about cultural intelligence during my program. Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem to me that the school seriously practices cultural intelligence. At my school, whenever I join activities for grad students, I see the same pattern: A great variety of Indian foods are served, along with Indian music. It happened even when these activities were supposed to be open to every student. At that moment, I realized school is operated like a business when the service is catered to the biggest group of customers. A small number of Vietnamese students or ones from other Asian countries had to “sacrifice” our culture to enjoy the culture of other countries. Don’t get me wrong, I love other cultures because it is one of the reasons why we decided to choose the U.S. for our study.  We came to events like this and realized it was not a warm welcome for everyone. Later on, we had no motivation to join in these events.

The Lunar New Year is not a celebration of a new year, indeed. It is the time of family gathering, an irreplaceable value to Asian communities. American students can go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas but crossing the Pacific Ocean to come home during the Lunar New Year seems more challenging. It is an expensive journey and normally the Lunar New Year happens during the spring semester, which prevents us from having a few days off at school. Instead of having a physical journey, we try to conjure up a “mental journey”: Talking to friends about the Lunar New Year, cooking some comfort foods, seeing some old photos, and making a Facetime video call with parents. But, isn’t it still nice to be cared about? When someone remembers our holiday and sends us a wish? Like we always say “Merry Christmas” in December? 

Our party ended at 3 a.m. on the first day of the new year. Tipsy as I was, I remembered I still had some assignments which are due on Saturday and Sunday. The Lunar New Year is not observed in the U.S. as a public holiday. I called Mom to say Happy New Year as reaching my apartment after the party and burned the midnight oil to finish my assignments. 

A new year is coming.

Duc Minh Bui is a graduate student in the School of Professional Studies.

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