The unique ways Davis High students celebrate Lunar New Year

PHOTO: Red envelopes are filled with money, and are traditionally given by the older generation to friends and family who are unmarried (Photo illustration).

By Wentao Chen, Staff–

The moonlight flows through the cold night air onto the lake’s surface, where it reflects back into the sky. A white boat sits on the lake, quietly drifting through the still, beautiful night in Shanghai, China. On the boat, Ethan Lin and his family are served a fancy dinner on the eve of one of China’s biggest holidays — Lunar New Year.

Every year around January or February, as the year of the lunar calendar ends, people across China get together with their relatives to celebrate Lunar New Year. Around the same time, on the other side of the planet, people in the small city of Davis, California also celebrate this special holiday in their own unique ways.

Senior Brian Liu celebrates Lunar New Year every year with his family. If he isn’t able to visit his grandparents, who live in San Francisco, they make sure to send him a card wishing him well along with a money-filled red envelope.

Last year, on the weekend before Lunar New Year, Liu and his family left Davis early in the morning and headed towards San Francisco. They arrived at a dim sum restaurant, where Liu’s grandparents, who had taken the bus, were waiting for them.

After finishing their meal and strolling around Chinatown, Liu’s family visited his grandparents’ apartment.

Finally, after Liu’s special opportunity to spend the day with his grandparents, the sun began to set and it was time to return home. “Bye! Happy New Year!” Liu said to his grandparents, as he and his family prepared to head back to Davis.

Bryce Liang, a senior at Davis High, arrived in Davis in the summer of 2019, after growing up in Guangdong, China. His family has always celebrated Lunar New Year in a very unique way.

Every year, during their winter break, Liang and his family would go on vacation to a foreign country, accompanied by six other families. In 2019, they went to Thailand.

The day before Lunar New Year, the six families sat together in a restaurant at a single table and enjoyed a big meal together — of Thai food. That night, together, on their phones, they watched the CCTV New Year’s Gala, a popular annual TV special leading up to the countdown of the new year, as many were doing back home.

“Happy New Year!” the children said to the adults the following morning. In exchange, the adults gave red envelopes to each of the children.

Finally, when Liang returned home, he gazed at the beautiful lanterns that were set up on the street in celebration of the new year.

Senior Joey Huang celebrates Lunar New Year in a special way as well. Huang, who is a teaching assistant at NewStar Chinese School, takes part in the program’s yearly Lunar New Year celebrations.

The celebration involves a performance for parents, in which each of the classes performs a song, skit, dance, or poem recitation of their choice. Huang practices together with the children in his class and performs with them as well.

It’s not just DHS students and their families who celebrate the Lunar New Year either. According to Mark Halperin, an associate professor and undergraduate faculty adviser for students of Chinese at UC Davis, every year, the various faculty members, instructors, and staff of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures go out to a special dinner in celebration of the holiday.

Ethan Lin, a sophomore at DHS, remembers back living in Shanghai before he arrived in Davis in 2018, also celebrating the holiday with a special dinner with his family. He remembers the night of 2016’s Lunar New Year.

He, his mother, his father and his sister were in a restaurant on a boat, quietly drifting through a lake in Pudong, Shanghai. The servers brought in seafood dishes to their private room one after another, bringing lobster, crab and oysters.

It a memorable experience for Lin. “The dinner [was] massive,” Lin said. “It [was] pretty cool, you [could] see the lake in the moonlight. It [was] pretty beautiful.”

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