As Lunar New Year just passed, I’ve taken the time to reflect on what I actually know about the holiday and what it means to Asian communities. The truth is, I didn’t really know anything. I’ve come to realize I wasn’t really educated on this holiday like I was with Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving, and others because the Lunar New Year simply didn’t apply to me.
What turned into a seemingly fun story about the celebration of Lunar New Year, actually hit me with the harsh reality that, I too, was ignorant in a sense, when it came to learning about other cultures. Although it may not have been intentional, my background didn’t apply to any holidays that weren’t American, so I simply never bothered to learn about it.
Lunar New Year is one of the most important celebrations in East and Southeast Asian communities. The celebrations start February 1st and consist of eating big dinners, watching fireworks, participating in traditional dancing, and being involved in other activities that could ensure good fortune for the next year.
Every year, the Lunar calendar cycles through one of 12 animals including: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. The calendar also cycles through the five elements: earth, water, fire, wood, and metal.
Due to the Lunar New Year celebrations getting canceled this year, I decided to go out into my surrounding community and find Asian community leaders, directors, performers, and members willing to give me some insight about their culture and how they give back to the Philadelphian Asian community.
I first met with Ms. Bin Wu, the President of the WE Cultural Exchange Institute, who organized a beautiful calligraphy exhibit with the help of her team at the Parkway Central Library.
She said, “COVID had a negative impact on the Chinese community.”
Anti-Asian violence has spiked since the pandemic and has shaken all aspects of their lives.
Bin-Wu’s calligraphy exhibit “showcases the beauty of Chinese culture” and she “hopes people will see that although we seem quiet on the outside, we are very passionate and determined to bring our community together”.
So, as college students in Philadelphia, how can we do our part in bringing the community together?
My two main takeaways from this experience are the need for education and support.
As a student living in this community, I feel like there’s numerous opportunities for me to educate myself on this culture and offer support to my fellow community members. This may look like going to different culturally-targeted clubs, or events. Or going out supporting minority-owned businesses and having fun trying new foods and seeing new things!
Bin-Wu says, “we are looking for community members and students like you to give us feedback and support in our goals and projects.”
So, let’s go out, and get informed!