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Lunar New Year in the U.S.: Not Just "Chinese" New Year

Taiwan Chinese New Year
Taiwan Chinese New Year
Happy Lunar New Year! 2015’s Lunar New Year is February 19. Even though Americans don’t celebrate the Lunar New Year, many call the Lunar New Year “Chinese New Year.”

However, from late January to the middle of February, China, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Singapore and many Asian countries celebrate the Lunar New Year as national holidays. The dates of celebration are similar because many countries in Asia interpret the lunar calendar the same way.

While Asians celebrate the Lunar New Year in different ways, all celebrations have one common feature: family reunions. Many go back home to spend time with family, even if they live far away, and have New Year’s Eve dinner – the most important holiday dinner in China and many other Asian countries.

But many Asian international students in the U.S. who celebrate the Lunar New Year can’t be with family. So instead, they call or Skype with them, and cook traditional food with friends.

Cheng Jing, a student at the University of Arizona, went to a Lunar New Year party with other Chinese students so that he can feel the warmth of family.

“The most important thing of the Lunar New Year is to get together with all family,” said Jing. “For students who study abroad, we cannot get together with our family, so we celebrate the Lunar New Year with other Chinese students who also study abroad.”

“Northern Chinese usually eat dumplings for the New Year,” Jing said. “We make dumplings together, so we can spend more time with family.”

Vietnam also celebrates Lunar New Year. In Vietnam, Lunar New Year day is called Tet Nguyen Dan, which means “the first morning of the first day.”

Hien Minh Le is from Vietnam, and is currently a student at Miramar College in San Diego, California. Le came to the U.S. in April 2013 to study. Her mom’s family lives in San Diego, so she usually celebrates the Vietnamese home-style New Year with them.

“Lunar New Year in the U.S. is an exciting time for me because I can meet my family,” said Le.

She said that her family eats special food during the Lunar New Year. Ban Chung (or sticky rice cake) is the most traditional special food for the Vietnamese New Year celebrations. It is made of sticky rice, pork, and other various ingredients.

“We also have traditional food which is square cake are called Banh Chung,” said Le. “We fill a plate with five types of fruit which sit on the ancestor’s altar during the New Year, too.”

Gathering family together and praying for ancestors is also one of the Lunar New Year practices among Koreans.

“I will miss this New Year reunion because I am in the U.S., but I will call my family,” said Gwanseok Yoo, a Korean student at College of English Language in San Diego. “I like New Year's Day because I can eat many delicious foods and get together with my family.”

During their celebrations, Koreans wear the traditional clothes, play folk games, eat traditional food, and meet family. In the morning, all family celebrates ancestral rites, and elderly people give children money and good wishes for the New Year.

Jeonghyun Kim is a VOA intern for the English web desk. She is from South Korea, and is currently pursuing her Masters in Professional Studies in Journalism at Georgetown University.