Stepping Into the Chinese New Year


How students at Pierce celebrate

Chinese New Year celebrates the beginning of the new year on the Chinese calendar. It is one of the world’s most prominent and celebrated festivals. However, not everyone gets to experience the celebration in their home country. Many students who are studying abroad in the U.S. find ways to celebrate here. 

In an email sent by Erik Gimness, director of Institutional Research at Pierce, he said, “Last year we had 96 international students from China. This year, we have 50 international students from China as of winter quarter. However, we are expecting that number to grow in spring.”

Gimness said, “In general, enrollments vary a bit from year to year, but I would be surprised if by the end of spring quarter we still saw such a large decrease from last year. Also, the International Education program is projecting an increase in spring quarter,” he added.

Karley Wise / Staff Illustration
Tracey Vo’s favorite Chinese New Year tradition is the decorating competition of lucky money. If you win the competition, you can get more lucky money that year.

Although it is not a formal holiday in the U.S., it is still thought of and observed by those who live here from abroad. Two students spoke about their experiences with the holiday back home and what they liked best about it. 

Loan Vo, or “Tracey” as she is known at Pierce, is in her second quarter studying business but thinking about transferring to marketing management. Vo chose to study here at Pierce because she enjoys Washington’s weather, and the classes were convenient for her. 

Vo talked about her fond memories of the holiday. “There’s always the traditional food. Pork and eggs and a special cake is always made,” she said. “There are also lucky wars – competitions that happen throughout the holiday.”  

Sabrina Li, a peer tutor in the tutoring center, is in her third year at Pierce. She is studying business and came to Pierce through the Running Start program. She enjoys being in leadership positions and connecting on campus. Li also observes the holiday here in the states – or tries to, at least. 

Karley Wise / Staff Illustration
Sabrina Li’s favorite Chinese New Year tradition is lucky money, and her favorite symbol is 春, which means “spring.”

“I want to celebrate with my host family, but it’s a little tricky compared to home with all that’s involved,” Li said. “My favorite part back home was being with family and watching the Gala (a Chinese New Year special produced by China Central Television).” Li enjoys being in leadership positions and connecting on campus.

There are, of course, differences between the Chinese New Year and the New Year’s celebrations that are held in the U.S. “It lasts three to four days longer, and there’s ‘lucky money’ (money that is given at the end of competitions to younger people by older people),” Vo said.

“Every Chinese person goes home, it’s really crowded, the businesses close down. The important part (of Chinese New Year) is the unity and love. It has a long, long history,” Li added.

Vo, when asked if she had her favorite things to pick from the holiday, she said, “The food and lucky money and being together with family.”

International Education and ASPIRE Waymakers hosted a Chinese New Year event in the Fireside and Performance lounges. It included additional booths in the hallway.

This year’s theme was Tet 2019 (the Vietnamese New Year), looking at how the Vietnamese culture celebrates the Lunar New Year, which is similar to Chinese New Year. The stage was set up for various performances. There was also food tables featuring Vietnamese food.

Alyssa Donaldson, an ASPIRE coordinator that worked on the event, said, “This is our second time collaborating with International Education. We went with the Vietnamese theme this year because we try to highlight one country’s look on the Lunar New Year and not just one group.”

Art project tables such as calligraphy and origami were also available for the arts-and-crafts-minded.

A kid zone was available during the event for those who had children with them. There was also a K-pop booth.

Karley Wise / Staff Illustration

If you have events you would like to collaborate on with ASPIRE or International Education, contact the International Education department at: