APIDA New Year Showcase Celebrates Different Asian Cultures During Lunar New Year

By Haoning Zhu

The Asian Resource Center at UC Santa Barbara held an “Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi American New Year Showcase” event on Jan. 25 to welcome and celebrate the Lunar New Year, where a virtual video series was presented to showcase various new year traditions.

The Asian Resource Center (ARC) used the panethnic classification “APIDA” for Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi American to be inclusive of all ethnic and regional communities the center aims to serve.

“We believe that the APIDA New Year Showcase and events celebrating APIDA culture and community are important to validate our community’s identity, and having that representation is really important,” said fourth-year sociology major and ARC Peer Mentor Katherine Vu.

The event began with attendees sharing their experiences and traditions of celebrating the new year. Third-year communication major and ARC Peer Mentor Phuong Vy T. Tran said her family would always go to the temple to see lion dances and firecrackers.

“My family and I go to the temple every year to take pictures, eat food and donate money. It sparks a sense of nostalgia because I would volunteer every Saturday as my siblings go to Vietnamese school,” Tran said.

Michael Takahara, a UCSB alumus of the class of 1993 who majored in psychology, is a Japanese American from Hawaii and said that his large family comes together with a variety of foods to celebrate the new year.

“My dad is from Japan, so he was in charge of making your own sushi. My mom, being from Hawaii, we had a few years with poi, which I loved. Lau Lau, Lomi lomi salmon, spam musubi, Hawaiian chow mein, opihi (snails) were special treats for some years,” Takahara said.

“My favorite parts were just sitting next to my cousins and talking about the foods from past gatherings. We would laugh. We didn’t have a TV in the room where everyone ate at my house, so we just talked and joked around the whole day,” Takahara continued.

Other attendees also mentioned traditions like receiving red envelopes — or “lucky money” — and eating traditional foods, like fish for an increase in prosperity, dumplings for wealth, tangyuan — sweet rice balls — for family togetherness and nian gao — a glutinous rice cake — for a higher income or a higher position. Nearly all the sharings were about food and family, which is the meaning of celebrating the lunar new year: bringing people together.

Lunar New Year traditions revolve around family and food to bring people together, a theme reflected within the attendees’ responses.

First-year pre-communication major and Kapatirang Pilipino member Alexa Tan then gave a singing performance of classical Filipino music known as Original Pilipino Music (OPM), which references all original music written and produced by Filipino artists.

“These passion-filled and emotionally fueled pop ballads perfectly encapsulate a powerful theme of love that is found in Filipino media,” said second-year psychological & brain sciences major Francine Oflas from Kapatirang Pilipino when introducing Tan. “In Filipino households, OPM classics evoke both nostalgia and sentimentality, and they are always at the obligatory karaoke parts of any Filipino gathering.”

After Tan’s performance, Casidy Chen, a fourth-year student double majoring in cultural anthropology and sociology and the president of the Taiwanese American Student Association, taught the attendees to make dumplings at home in a pre-recorded clip.

“Dumplings have cultural significance with the Lunar New Year just as they look similar to ancient Chinese money,” Chen said. “So people believe the dumplings are supposed to bring wealth and prosperity in the new year.”

She also introduced that dumpling wrapping is a fun family activity that promotes “bonding and getting together.”

Third-year biopsychology major and Southeast Asian Union co-President Tracy Hou prepared a short video on how to make a paper lantern.

“Grabbing a piece of red paper, floating against the long edge, using a scissor to cut along the folded edge. Just cutting the strips but not all the way across — maybe around 3/4 of the way, and doing that along the entire edge,” Hou said. “Opening the paper and connecting the two sides by a staple.”

“I felt like it was really appropriate with Lunar New Year coming up. In general, lanterns are relevant when it comes to celebrations, as they represent prosperity and wealth. I thought that it would be fun for people to make and have around the house for the holiday. With paper craft lanterns, it’s also very easy to decorate it however you want,” Hou continued. She learned how to make the lanterns at a Southeast Asian Union event in her first year at UCSB, so she wanted to share it with more people through this new year showcase event.

Jonna Carey, a third year psychological & brain sciences major student and the cultural chair of the Southeast Asian Union, had a recorded clip showing attendees how to make a gel called “jeow,” a sauce for dipping sticky rice and other foods.

Wrapping up the showcase, Vu introduced the Vietnamese Student Association, which performed a dance through a recorded video. The performers used straw hats, fans and long silks for dancing, with Vietnamese music accompanying the performance.

“I feel like events like this New Year Showcase will help students with APIDA backgrounds to find those pockets of community and feel like home at UCSB,” Vu said.

She said that some students might not grow up in diverse communities and that cultural events like the showcase can empower students to discover something new and enjoy the communities they identify with in a way that they might not have before. She wanted APIDA students to feel a sense of belonging at UCSB through such events.

Tran said that ARC will continue to hold similar events to the APIDA New Year Showcase, such as APIDA Heritage Month and APIDA Graduation, in the near future.

*Originally published on the Daily Nexus February 25, 2022

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