Though the New Year already began two months ago, for many Asian cultures that celebrate Lunar New Year, it has only just begun.
On Jan. 22, Asian people worldwide welcomed the beginning of the New Year with numerous cultural celebrations. Here on campus, the various Asian student unions combined together to host a celebration of this holiday on Feb. 25. It was a wonderful event full of music, dancing, food, and cultural pride.
Annually, student organizations such as Korean Culture Association (KCA), Asian-American Student Union (ASU), Vietnamese Culture Organization (VCO), Chinese Student & Culture Communication Association (CSCA), Taiko, Team Tibet, D-Vine, and Krush work hard to organize the event and plan acts to showcase cultural performances. Filled with traditional dances, clothes, foods, and songs, the Lunar New Year event on campus is a celebration of not only the holiday, but of one another as well as the various cultures represented.
When asked about the importance of an event such as this, Anna Brown ’23, KCA and D-Vine co-chair said, “it’s really important to be able to celebrate on campus, especially at a predominantly white place like St. Olaf. To have this space for BIPOC individuals to come together, and have this important celebration is really impactful and meaningful because it creates a safe space for everyone to share their different cultures while also educating the broader St. Olaf community.”
At an institution where only roughly 17.21 percent of students identify themselves as Asian or Asian-American, the statement that Brown makes is true. Her message continues to be reiterated throughout the campus – representation matters. Events such as Lunar New Year and International Night are important to BIPOC students who seek a home away from home. It provides them with a space and opportunity to connect, share, and celebrate their cultures.
The keynote speaker, Religion and Asian Studies Professor Sungha Yun, gave a speech titled “Who is the Strong and Who is the Weak?” — a talk on the responsibility that comes with the year of the Black Rabbit, a sign of great fortune. She pressed students to share fortune with others and make meaningful changes to help your own life as well as those around you because how you choose to live will determine whether you become strong or weak. What students can take away from Professor Yun’s speech and the Lunar New Year event is the power of community.
“I feel like representation is so much, and I feel like as the Asian community here on campus, we have so many different identities and it should be represented in a place full of happiness and support,” says ASU co-chair Kana Arya-Kjeseth ’23. For students to be able to celebrate and their cultural identity in a safe environment is a wonderful experience. However, it shouldn’t just be confined to one night and place. Instead, the celebration and support of various identities should be a consistent presence on campus. In the spirit of the Year of the Black Rabbit, everyone can work on making meaningful change in their lives to curate an environment such as this on campus.