A different celebration during an unusual time

Students discuss ways of celebrating with family during the pandemic.

Whenever people talk about the holiday season, the most common festivals referenced are celebrations such as Christmas or Thanksgiving, but right around the corner, as another year goes by, Lunar New Year takes place. 

Every family marks these celebrations with their own traditions. Senior Rachel Lee’s father is from China, and her mother is from Malaysia, which creates a combination of cultures during their family reunions, Lee said. 

“Every year [before the celebration] we would clean the house and we have this family reunion where we all have a big dinner,” Lee said in a Zoom interview. “In the dinner, we usually have a fish to symbolize the whole year [and] we always leave leftovers because you’re never supposed to finish the meal or it’s considered bad luck.” 

Lee also said in addition to the dinner itself, there are many other family traditions they practice, such as using a type of soap made from the leaves of a mellow tree for the shower to wash away the evil spirits, as well as having a raw fish in a bowl of salad. Family members gather around and mix the salad together while saying good luck wishes to each other.

“For me, the best part of Lunar New Year is getting the red packet that contains money, symbolizing good luck, ” Lee said in a Zoom interview. “I really like being able to spend time with my family and I think it’s kind of like a really fun thing that makes me feel included in a corner and makes me appreciate my heritage.”

Along with Rachel, Tam Dan Nguyen said she also has a unique Lunar New Year celebration experience. Nguyen’s family is Vietnamese and celebrates by thoroughly cleaning the house the night before Lunar New Year, she said, burning incense to welcome the ancestors into their home, and preparing rice cakes and caramelized egg.

“Every year, my mom and I send out packages to our Vietnamese friends and family that live in areas that don’t have as many Vietnamese foods,” Nguyen said in a Zoom interview. “So we’ll send food from San Jose or Orange County … for people unable to get in their areas.”

Although Nguyen’s family planned to go down to Southern California this year to visit other family members, she said the pandemic changed their decision and they opted to stay at home for the indoor celebration.

“Usually my family will go down to Southern California and so we’ll see everybody,” Nguyen said. “Instead, this year, I got to spend more time at home with my family.”