The UC Santa Barbara Associated Students Senate passed a resolution recommending the establishment of Lunar New Year as a university holiday at UC Santa Barbara during the Jan. 11 Senate meeting. The resolution, in light of the recent Lunar New Year holiday, prompted discussion on how students on campus celebrate.
Lunar New Year — falling on Jan. 22 this year — brings the beginning of a new year and wishes based on the lunisolar calendar and is widely celebrated in China, South Korea and Vietnam, among other Asian countries. Though the tradition is celebrated differently based on the respective country, the holiday is adorned with lanterns, paper cuttings and various dishes like rice balls, fish, dumplings and more.
Third-year Asian American studies and communications major and Chinese Student Union (CSU) President Caroline Chen said that other community events for Lunar New Year were planned, but the upcoming Lunar New Year celebration, hosted by the Asian Resource Center, was postponed in light of the mass shooting at a Monterey Park dance studio on Lunar New Year’s eve.
Chen emphasized that ultimately, Lunar New Year signifies love and appreciation for family.
“I don’t personally really go home. I don’t see my parents as much as I want to,” Chen said. “So just appreciating the time you have with your family and seeing relatives and people you don’t see as often — that’s the main thing.”
The resolution — authored by third year economics and philosophy double major Sohum Kalia and seconded by second year financial math and statistics major Xiaoyang Hua — follows state legislation passed in 2022 to recognize Lunar New Year as a state holiday.
“We’re hoping that we can use some momentum and push for some changes here at UCSB,” Second year political science major and Interim External Vice President of Local Affairs Billy Wu said.
Associated Students (A.S.) now officially recognizes Lunar New Year as a university holiday. Kalia and Wu are looking to work with UCSB administrators to recognize the holiday as a university and put it on the University of California Office of the President holiday calendar.
“[Being a university holiday] means everyone would get it off, workers don’t have to work if they choose not to and [that includes] everything that comes with being a fully UCOP recognized holiday,” Kalia said.
The resolution also hopes to spur celebratory measures similar to UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC Irvine, which have special dishes for Lunar New Year in their dining commons in honor of the holiday. UCSB implemented this in the past but stopped following the tradition at the onset of COVID-19.
“We want to pick it back up and start doing the celebration with that,” Wu said.
Wu and Kalia hope the bill sparks collaboration between A.S. and other campus entities, including the International Student Association and the Chinese Student Association.
“We’re hoping to get their efforts and throw a celebration for the coming year,” Wu said. “This is all kind of in our early stages of planning, but we’re definitely researching ways that we can make it more of a festivity here on campus.”
Wu said recognizing Lunar New Year as a university holiday goes beyond the resolution, expressing hope that it could build bridges within the Asian community at UCSB.
“With the pandemic [and] the rise of anti-Asian crimes … I think this is a perfect bridge that can bridge the gap between domestic students and international students,” Wu said. “We can find commonalities and celebrate something and bring together the community.”
Such community building has already started, according to Wu, who said that this resolution has prompted conversations between A.S. and student campus organizations.
“[UCSB’s Asian communities] never really seen any of this momentum or initiative coming from our communities,” Wu said. “I would say this is probably one of the few moments that we see a lot of student engagement from the most unengaged student groups we have on campus.”
As an international student himself, Wu said that the international student community at UCSB is often removed from campus activities due to barriers of language and culture.
“They come here, [and] they don’t even speak the language or they have this cultural barrier. So, naturally, they just want to hang out with their own people,” Wu said.
Wu spoke of Lunar New Year as a lifelong holiday for him and his family, reminiscing the celebration as a reminder of home.
“I’ve been celebrating this holiday ever since I was born,” Wu said. “It’s a happy time for me, and whenever I think about it, it’s happy memories.”
Wu said his family’s celebration of Lunar New Year begins at midnight with dumplings, followed by paying respect to his elderly family members through burning paper money and fireworks. He then — like many other cultures — receives a red envelope with money from his elderly family members after expressing gratitude toward them.
Chen said she rarely goes home for Lunar New Year because her family lives far from Santa Barbara. Instead, she celebrated the holiday this year by gathering with her friends.
“Everyone wrapped dumplings. We cooked them and just watched some shows together,” Chen said. “[Lunar New Year] is a good time to share cultures and traditions.”
To cultivate that sense of community among those who celebrate Lunar New Year on campus, Chen looks forward to CSU’s dinner this week to commemorate the holiday.
“Everyone’s going to come, have some food, have some performances, gifts, raffles [and] some games, creating a time when we can all just be together,” Chen said.
Wu echoed Chen’s sentiment of Lunar New Year’s ultimate purpose being bringing family and community together.
“Lunar New Year is usually celebrated with the idea of peace, of joy, of union, people coming together and celebrating a new beginning,” Wu said. “I think this is one of the messages that we want to give out to all the students — see this as a time that we move past our differences, we pass beyond how we look, what languages we speak and we just come together and give out good wishes.”
A version of this article appeared on p. 4 of the Jan. 26, 2023 print edition of the Daily Nexus.