Asian cultures bring in the New Year


Anthony Bo

Vietnamese Club performs at a Vietnamese Galt temple in celebration of the Lunar New Year on January 26 (left to right): Jessica Lee, Catherine Quiruz, Jessica Nguyen, Justine Do-Huynh, and Lisa Nguyen.

Lisa Nguyen, Staff Writer

Although many already rang in the new year on Jan. 1, others have delayed their celebrations for cultural reasons.

Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean New Year usually occur between January and February; the date is based on a lunisolar calendar.  This year, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean New Year fell on January 31.  Cambodian New Year is on April 13 and lasts for three days.

The celebration of New Year is a significant part of each culture.  Many customs and traditions are followed during this time, varying from culture to culture.

During Chinese New Year, families get together to celebrate and eat traditional food, such as dumplings, mochi and soup.

“I help my family prepare the food and set up the altar that we put up for our ancestors,” senior Changsen Sim said.  “We light incense sticks and gather around to pray.”

In addition, the house is decorated with red and gold decorations, which symbolizes luck and wealth respectively.  Other decorations often include fruits and candy.

“We place tangerines on plates around the house, making sure that they are in multiples of three because it symbolizes good luck,” junior Jessica Lee said.

Aside from the decorations, food, and family gatherings, red pockets are a favorite among all.  The red envelopes are usually filled with money and given by an older person to a younger person.  Although a significant aspect of New Year, New Year does not necessarily revolve around getting money.

“Red pockets are a bonus, but the time you spend with your family is the most important thing,” senior John Wei said.

Similar to the Chinese culture, Vietnamese New Year is also filled with family time, decorations, traditional foods, and red envelopes.

A hoa mai tree is a unique decoration to the Vietnamese culture during New Year.  This tree has yellow flowers and is usually decorated with hanging red envelopes and other ornaments.

Glutinous rice cakes, called banh tet, banh chung and banh u, are some of the traditional foods for Vietnamese New Year.

“I look forward to eating banh tet during New Year,” senior Henry Nguyen said.

A unique part of Vietnamese New Year is the fun games that are played only during New Year. Bau cua is a popular gambling game that involves betting on the outcome of three dice.  The six sides of the dice have pictures of five different animals and a gourd on them.  Players place their bets, and if they predict the outcome correctly, they win double, triple or quadruple the amount they placed down.

“I usually get lucky whenever I play bau cua,” junior Anthony Bo said.  “It’s a fun game, and I’m glad that it is a part of New Years.”

Aside from the gathering and celebrating at home, street celebrations are common for entertainment during both Chinese and Vietnamese New Year.  Many come to watch the lion and dragon dance to the beat of a drum.

“I take my mom to festivals and celebrations that have singing, dancing, firecrackers, and lion dances,” Assistant Principal Dennis To said.

New Year is also filled with superstitions.  Both Chinese and Vietnamese people must clean the entire house before New Year in order to eliminate any bad fortune and pave the way for incoming luck.  This cleaning often starts weeks in advance of the actual New Year’s day.

During the days of New Year, however, it is considered bad luck to clean or sweep the house, which is why all the cleaning must be done beforehand.

New Year’s superstitions usually involve a belief related to luck, fortune, and prosperity.

“The first family member to walk in your house that morning will give you the luck for that year,” math and community service teacher Long Nguyen said, referring to a Vietnamese New Year superstition.

Chinese and Vietnamese New Year are celebrated similarly.  Korean New Year shares some aspects, but also differs in others.

During Korean New Year, families get together to celebrate.  The younger ones dress up in traditional clothing, called hanbok.  They bow to their elders, wishing them a good year.  The elders then give them money.

Like Chinese and Vietnamese New Year, family gatherings and traditional foods are an important part of Korean New Year.

“We eat rice cake soup, which symbolizes the gaining of a year,” junior Sam Park said.

New Year is a day filled with fun, food, and family.   During the first two days of Cambodian New Year, many will eat with family, pray for good luck, and donate money to the temple.  The last day is reserved for elders to pray at the temple.

The temple is a major gathering place during Cambodian New Year. Many go there to spend time with each other, watch performances, and eat food.

“My favorite part of New Year is seeing all the Cambodian people from Stockton coming together to have a good time,” junior Nathan Mao said.

Hmong New Year celebrates many of the same traditions and occurs on April 3.

Despite the differences in traditions, New Year is ultimately about getting together with family, embracing new beginnings and preserving one’s culture.