NEC Celebrates the Lunar New Year

NEC's Asian Students Association hosted an NEC Lunar New Year celebration, complete with bubble tea, calligraphy, and a lion dance.

Happy Lunar New Year! On January 23, the Speed Dining Commons took on a festive character thanks to the Asian Student Association (ASA), which hosted an array of joyful and thoughtfully curated activities that brought together the NEC community.

Ariel Mo ’20, ASA president and fourth-year piano major, and Ching Yeo, ASA advisor and College Administrative Manager, share background and commentary on the festivities in this photo essay.

cut-outs, bubble tea and painting

Attendees welcomed the Lunar New Year with delicate scissor-work, homemade bubble tea, and hand-painted banners. Paper cutting and calligraphy are both traditional decorative crafts, and the characters featured at the event focused on ushering in good health, prosperity, and well wishes for the new year.

Ariel: “The choice of activities was very much based on traditional games we remembered from our childhood in China celebrating Lunar New Year with our families and neighbors every year.”

The bubble tea stand was very popular.

Demand for the excellent bubble tea lasted the whole evening.

Ariel: “Rebecca's Cafe [NEC's campus dining services] met with us a few times to collaborate. Chef Zach in particular helped us make the bubble tea in the cafeteria kitchens, found supplies for us, and helped us set up before the event. And Gerganna from Rebecca’s Café, as well as Robin Searcy, NEC's activities director, both had a huge hand in decorating the SLPC with us.“

Bubble tea aficionados

An experience best shared with friends.

Ching: “We wanted to create a festive event that would not only celebrate the lunar new year, but also honor an occasion which we knew was significant to a large population of the student body, as well as introduce the culture to others.”

Blowing on the ink to make it dry faster

A little breath to encourage the ink to dry.

Ariel: “The red banners with painted calligraphy were taken home by many students, who hung them on their walls to inspire prosperity in the new year. If you ever go to China, you’d see many of those banners hanging by the entrance[s] of homes and in doorways for the same reason!”

Posing for a polaroid

Free Polaroids (!) for you and your friends!

Ariel: “Many students who are not on the ASA eboard volunteered with us. Willy Kubas from QUEST [NEC's Queer Student Union] especially came to take the free Polaroids which students took home with them.”

Paper lanterns hold riddles

The top two prizewinners in a game of riddles solved a total of 19 riddles out of a possible 60 riddles available for solving—30 in English, and 30 in Chinese.

Ariel: “I personally remember playing lantern riddles when I was very little, growing up in the south of China. It’s mostly done around the Mid-autumn festival (where we eat mooncakes) or the Lantern Festival, which is in the springtime—close enough to the Chinese New Year that we felt justified in mixing things up! 

“The story goes that in ancient times, whenever there was an emperor who was not quite so tolerant of dissent, his advisors would give their advice (or bad news) in vague riddles so as to avoid punishment. A lot of the traditional riddles are couched in historical references, and have solutions that turn out to be advice or reasoning. 

“This game eventually became a standard custom of the lantern festival; in fact, because some riddles were so complex that solving them was ‘harder than shooting a tiger,’ lantern riddles are also known as ‘lantern tigers,’ and solving a lantern tiger can be called ‘shooting a literary tiger.’’

Offerings for dragons

Ching: “Each of the items offered to the lions has symbolism within: the lettuce is chewed up by the lion and then scattered to represent the spreading of wealth and prosperity. Similarly, the oranges symbolize prosperity. This was the lunar year of the rat, hence the stuffed toy animal.”

Lunar New Year dragons arrive

Lion dancers arrived from the Wah Lum Kung Fu & Tai Chi Academy, led by Mai Du.

Ching: “The lions are accompanied by loud gongs and drums which set the rhythm for the dance, but the music is also intended to create a festive atmosphere and chase away evil spirits.”

Dragons dance and students cheer

Ariel: “The offerings are “chewed up” by each lion, and then “spat out/tossed/shared” amongst students to spread well wishes.”

Enjoying the dragon dance

The crowd cheers as the lions dance! Both dragon and lion dances are often featured in Chinese New Year celebrations.

Ariel: “The difference between a lion dance and a dragon dance is slight but important; we advertised the event as a ‘dragon dance’ because that’s the name Westerners associate with that kind of performance, but these were lion dancers.”

The climax of the Dragon Dance

At last, the lions unfurl their New Year's greetings.

Ariel: “We’re definitely thinking of hosting a similar event next year—we have a lot of Polaroid leftover!”

Lunar New Year decal on the SLPC stairs

Photos by Ching Yeo and Andrew Hurlbut

Through large public celebrations and smaller club meetings, the ASA aims to strengthen Asian-Pacific Islander students' personal cultural identities, while offering a chance for all of NEC to learn more about API cultures, and thus improve intercultural as well as international-domestic unity within the student body.

Learn more about the Asian Student Association and other student organizations on campus

The ASA wants to hear from you! Have feedback, suggestions, or ideas for what you’d like to see more of? Contact the ASA at