One World Festival: Lunar New Year Celebration

This blog was contributed by Fengzhi Zhao, who is reading a PhD in Applied Linguistics and is Chair of the Birkbeck Chinese Society; Kevin Lau, who is studying Management at Birkbeck and is the SU Postgraduate Officer; and La Young Jackson, International Liaison Officer at Birkbeck.  

Birkbeck students celebrating Lunar New Year

On January 24 2020the day before the Lunar New Year, a celebratory event was held at Birkbeck.  

London has a large international community and so here at Birkbeck, University of London we held our own Lunar New Year celebrations to celebrate the start of the Year of the Rat! As part of the One World FestivalLa Young from International Student Administration, Kevin from the Students’ Union, and Fengzhi from the Birkbeck Chinese Society teamed up and transformed an ordinary teaching room into a room of festive activities and fun!  

Lunar New Year is the most important festival in many Far East countries such as China, Korea, Singapore and Vietnam. The event not only celebrated the festival for students, alumni and staff from these countries, but also provided a chance for those from other countries to experience the festival atmosphere of different culture. Students and staff had the opportunity to try various Asian snacks and drinks, with many snacks and decorations being directly shipped from Hong Kong, China.  

“With typical decorations such as Lucky Cat, Chinese couplets, and red lanterns, we are immersed in true Chinese New Year atmosphere”, said Fengzhi.  

There were many activities for students to participate. One activity was crafting Red Envelope Fish, which is commonly taught at primary school but can be easily be enjoyed by university students. As part of the New Year celebrations in China, in Mandarin, the word “fish” sounds similar to “surplus” and so it is considered to be auspicious and brings wealth to the person.  

Lucky red fish for Lunar New Year

It was a pleasure to introduce students to our traditions of celebrating the start of the New Year. I really appreciate all students from around the world taking an interest and understanding of why the colour red is so important to many of our cultures. And to all students, I wish them “学习进步” (progress in studies) and “金榜题名” (success in examination),” said Kevin. 

Students were also challenged to compete in a traditional Korean game of Jegichagi, where students would kick a jegi and keep it in the air for as long as possible. A feat that may be easy for those on the Birkbeck Football Team, but may be challenging for others!

Red envelope giving is a traditional Chinese gift that contains money and is given during holidays and special occasions. This tradition is about bestowing good luck and fortune to others. Students were shown how to make their own red envelopes and to write their own messages of good luck and fortune to those they wish to bestow fortune to, but were also given a more modern red envelope shipped directly from Hong Kong. Everyone who attended the event left with a red envelope with (chocolate) coins!

And so from all of us here at Birkbeck, we hope everyone will have a great Lunar New Year!

Fengzhi and Kevin

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