Year of the Rabbit: UCI’s Lunar New Year


Ellie Chan

CHEERS TO A NEW YEAR: UCI student musicians play to a nostalgic Chinese melody under the aroma of cherry blossoms.

Lucy Kim, Junk Editor

Wafts of mouth-watering aromas blow in from cultural foods piled on booths covered with red decorations. In the distance, a majestic rumble of gongs and drums fills the festival ambience. Cheerful greetings of “Xīnnián hǎo,” “Chúc mừng năm mới” and “Saehae bok mani badeuseyo” are heard from every direction, wishing friends and loved ones a fulfilling new year.

UCI’s Social Sciences department hosted a full day of Lunar New Year celebrations on Jan. 17, helping Asian American students connect with their heritage. Events included a screening of a short documentary about China’s music revival and performances from the Hikari Taiko Drummers, UCI KPOP and UCI Hansori. Booths and games also celebrated traditions from various Asian cultures such as China, Korea and Vietnam.

“The purpose of UCI’s Lunar New Year festival is to provide a fun and festive way for our diverse student body to celebrate and learn about the holiday,” lead organizer Tracy Arcuri said. “We have students from so many cultural backgrounds that we can draw on to make it a truly multicultural celebration.”

The festival, which was free and open to the public, lasted from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Booths and tables were stocked with Asian cuisine, such as Chinese moon cakes and sticky rice cakes.

Attendees also had a chance to partake in beloved traditions, which included wishing for happiness and health at the wishing tree by tying on written wishes and exchanging red envelopes with monetary tokens with friends and family.

Although the forecasted rain relocated performances to the Barclay Theater, majestic lion costumes and life-size dragon puppets charmed the crowd during the Dragon Dance and Feeding of the Lions performances. The evening ended with an orchestral performance from the Trio Barclay and UCI Department of Music students in the Irvine Barclay Theatre.

“We generally set up a wide range of stations for all UCI students, of Asian heritage or not, to experience different cultural practices such as calligraphy or even martial arts,” Director of UCI’s Global Languages & Communication department and event cohost Jerry Lee said. “This year, the ddakji station was popular, which was probably a lingering effect of the popularity of Squid Game!”

The festival also worked to spread Asian culture with a screening of the documentary “Beethoven in Beijing,” which explores the Philadelphia Orchestra’s 1973 tour in China at the beginning of China’s musical reawakening. After the screening, co-producer Jennifer Lin, conductor Jindong Cai and historian Sheila Melvin held an informative Q&A with the audience.

While Asian Americans in Western countries often feel disconnect from their heritage, the celebration hopes to have helped mend that gap.

“Celebrating Lunar New Year is important as a time to reflect on the past year and to express hope for the year ahead,” Arcuri said.