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Asian affinity groups gather to celebrate Lunar New Year

A group of students sit around tables eating in a dimly-lit room decorated with red lanterns.
Seven East and Southeast Asian student groups hosted a Lunar New Year celebration in the Carl A. Fields Center on Thursday, Feb. 8.
Courtesy of Brandon Le

For Xuanying Hua ’26, the President of the Malaysian and Singaporean Association (MASA), Lunar New Year is best represented by “tuán ​yuán fàn” — a Chinese phrase that signifies gathering together and sharing food in a “reunion dinner” to bring in the new year. 

However, for students away from home, celebrating the Lunar New Year at Princeton can “feel very different,” Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) President Sabrina Van ’26 told The Daily Princetonian.


Hoping to bring the Lunar New Year experience to campus, seven Asian affinity groups hosted a joint Lunar New Year celebration at the Carl A. Fields Center last Thursday, Feb. 8. VSA organized the event and brought food. The six other groups, the Asian American, Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Filipino, and Malaysian and Singaporean student organizations also contributed their own cultural foods. According to its website, the Carl A. Fields Center is a space where “diverse perspectives and experiences of race, class, gender and their intersections are supported and challenged, questioned and answered.”

“Lunar New Year, at its core, is meant to celebrate the beginning of the lunisolar calendar and the coming of spring,” Van later wrote to the ‘Prince’ in an email. “However, [Lunar New Year] is also a time to wish good luck, prosperity, and good health to others. It is a time for families to reunite, eat traditional dishes, and celebrate the coming year together.” 

While each respective culture has its own traditions, this event sought to highlight the shared “concept of eating together with your loved ones,” Hua told the ‘Prince.’ 

“While the traditions and foods vary between cultures, I’m happy our event was able to offer everyone a piece of each culture whether it was from the food or the music,” Van wrote. 

Each organization committed to bringing “traditional cultural food” to the event, Van told the ‘Prince.’ She and Mason Thieu ’25, one of VSA’s social chairs, traveled to Philadelphia to buy bánh tét (a sticky rice cake rolled in a banana leaf) from a Vietnamese temple. Meanwhile, Hua contacted the local Thai Pin restaurant to cater mango sticky rice, red bean soup, and bobochacha.

“The owner [was] really excited, because although she’s Malaysian, she focuses more on Thai food here,” Hua said. “She was really excited to start cooking some Malaysian desserts for us.”


Other foods included onigiri from the Japanese Student Association, mapo tofu from the Chinese Student Association, boba and popcorn chicken from the Taiwanese Student Association, and lumpia from the Princeton Filipino Community. 

The Princeton VSA also reached out to the Rutgers University–New Brunswick VSA to coordinate a traditional lion dance to celebrate the coming Year of the Dragon. According to Hua, the lion dance tradition stems from a folktale in which the lion drives away a mythical monster. She added that the Rutgers dragon “spit out” red packets into the audience, corresponding to the practice of elders giving younger family members red envelopes to symbolize luck and prosperity. 

The event also had red lantern decorations, a live DJ from VSA playing Asian pop songs, and a space for students of all different cultures to share their experiences and enjoy themselves.

“I really enjoyed the event … there was a lot of food and it was a really good time, plus I was at a table with a bunch of good friends,” Zayvinn Lin ’25 told the ‘Prince’ at the event.

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Van said that she hopes to continue the joint Lunar New Year celebration in future years. 

“The event was an overwhelming success, and I couldn’t have been more grateful for all the executive boards and groups that contributed,” she elaborated. “Upon seeing the long line extending onto the Street, I was excited to see so many people wanting to join us to celebrate Lunar New Year.” 

Elisabeth Stewart is an assistant News editor for the ‘Prince.’

Matteo Torres is a News contributor for the ‘Prince.’

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