A new year calls for new traditions, along with reminders of the old. This year, Princeton students took the initiative to organize unique and intimate ways to celebrate the Lunar New Year and adjust home traditions to the realities of campus life. From the basement of Dod Hall to the kitchen of Terrace Club to the packed 锦里 SC house, friends could be found gathered around good food and great company.
Tucked away in the basement of Dod, on Feb. 1, a small group of students carefully attached lì xì (lucky money) envelopes to tree branches and red banners to walls to mark the celebration of Tết, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year.
For the past few days, Hien Pham ’23, Celine Pham ’22, Audrey Chau ’25, Chien Nguyen ’25, and others gathered to prepare for the event. The group organized rideshare trips to an Asian market, raided the U-Store for cutlery, and labored for hours in the Lockhart kitchen — pouring their time, energy, and “a decent chunk of money” (as the invitation email put it) to whipping up a feast for the campus community.
On the menu was the Tết must-have thịt kho tàu (caramelized braised pork), along with vegan options like rau xào (stir-fry veggies) and đậu hũ kho nấm (braised tofu with mushrooms), best enjoyed with cơm (white rice).
Guests were beyond delighted to be able to enjoy traditional Viet dishes while away from home.
Lively festival music played in the background as the group, many of whom had never met before that day, came together to share in the Tết spirit.
Meanwhile, at Terrace, another event was unfolding.
“It was actually a pretty last minute idea,” Isabella Pu ’23, vice president of Terrace, told The Daily Princetonian. She and a former club officer, Andrew Xu ’22, had the idea to make Chinese food in honor of the Lunar New Year. Wanting their fellow club members to not only enjoy but also participate in the making of the food, the duo settled on the classic Chinese dumpling as the centerpiece.
“We made pork dumplings, veggie dumplings, and we just had people folding dumplings and wontons,” Pu described.
The cooking process proved to be worthwhile in and of itself.
“Out of all the people who came, two or three had folded dumplings before. Everyone else was learning!” Pu said.
“It was really fun to see people make their first successful dumplings and be super excited about that,” she said. “Because it’s not a common experience to see people be excited about Chinese culture or Chinese food here on campus.”
Back on Nassau Street, 锦里 SC house, a Chinese restaurant, was packed with (mostly) Asian and Asian American students and other celebrators of the Lunar New Year. Kerrie Liang ’25 and Joshua Yang ’25 reflected on their experiences huddled inside the well-known restaurant to ring in the new year with nostalgia and gratefulness in a recent ‘Prince’ piece.
Celebrations are continuing on campus. The Korean Students Association plans to hold a group dinner at Forbes College in the coming days, and the Asian-American Students Association hopes to distribute care packages in lieu of red envelopes for its members.
Even away from their families and hometowns — many for the first time — students at Princeton shared a moment of remembrance, evoking memories of a loving past, as well as excitement for the roaring future.
Ngan Chiem is a senior writer and junior in the politics department pursuing a certificate in creative writing who typically covers student activism on campus. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Instagram @nganstop.