I Don’t Celebrate the Lunar New Year

A New Tradition for Berkshire and Me

Aimi Sekiguchi ’20

 On January 1st, less than a day into 2018, I left home to fly back to JFK Airport. 

 I’m from Japan, and New Years is our biggest national holiday; the first week of January is full of reunions, food, games, and prayers at temples. The early start of Berkshire’s second semester cut my celebration short, but hey, at least I got my Pochi Bukuro, an envelope with New Year’s money. I spent the money at Bizen with my Berkshire friends. 

 Similarly, many of the Asian international students who celebrate the Lunar New Year (which happens in late-January) miss out on their biggest family reunion. So when the language department invited the Asian Affinity club to organize a Lunar New Year celebration at Berkshire, I was beyond excited and determined to make it memorable. But as a Japanese student who doesn’t celebrate the holiday, I was unsure of my standing as an organizer.

 While preparing for the all-school presentation, I learned what Lunar New Year meant for different students. 

 Luke Nguyen ’21 thinks of Chung cake and visiting the first Vietnamese university for academic luck. Moya Techakalayatum ’21 thinks of massive feasts of Chinese food and ang pao, the Thai red packets given to children. Michelle Rhee ’21 thinks of sebae, the traditional bowing of children to elders, and ddeokguk, a Korean rice cake soup that marks the new year. Michelle Wang ’20 and Darran Shen ’20 think of the fifteen-day celebration with fish and Tangyuan, a traditional dessert, which are puns on Chinese words that respectively mean prosperity and reunion. 

 I was fascinated by the different significances the same day held for each person, and couldn’t wait for them to share with the rest of the community.

 When we met to discuss the food to be served at the special community lunch with Flik representative Denee Danner, sushi was quickly added to the menu. I was certain students would love it, but uncertain of its significance. For a Lunar New Year themed-lunch, was sushi really appropriate? In fact, should I be involved at all, representing the entire Asian student body to explain a foreign tradition?

 I was ambivalent going up on stage at the Thursday all-school meeting, but thankfully, our presentation was a great success. I couldn’t be happier with all the positive feedback I received. 

 Michelle Wang later told me, “Seeing the Chinese III class performing the dragon dance in front of the entire school hit home. My heritage was recognized here at Berkshire; people who don’t celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday was embracing the culture that I’m a part of.” 

 I realized that by enjoying this process, I too had helped her and many others share their identity with the community.

 On the night of January 24th, I saw my first fireworks in the United States. And it was to recognize our race, our heritage, our home. I teared up. As the beautiful sparks of light blurred in my vision, I felt like I had truly accomplished something.

 During Monday lunch, sushi was indeed very popular, and I was proud that it was there, representing me, even though Japan celebrates the solar New Year. 

 Why, you ask?

 The Lunar New Year is a celebration of family, but I learned each of my friends celebrate in their unique way. For me, it is a celebration of my life as part of the Berkshire family. I can proudly say that every year, when the Lunar New Year comes around, I will remember what I felt seeing the fireworks here at Berkshire. 

 I hope everyone at Berkshire can embrace the Lunar New Year as a continuing tradition, whether to remember their home or to learn about their friends’, classmates’, and colleagues’ homes.

 I am Japanese, and with my biological family, I celebrate the solar New Year. But the Lunar New Year is a new celebration I will cherish: one to embrace my Berkshire family, and to remind myself of the joy and value of sharing who you are.