A message from Alden Habacon, Director of Intercultural Understanding at UBC.
This February as you walk across campus you may overhear the many ways to wish someone a Happy Lunar New Year!
- Gong Hay Fat Choy and Son Nihn Fai Lok! (Cantonese)
- Gong Xi Fa Cai and Xin Nian Kuai Le! (Mandarin)
- Sae-hae bok mani badeusayo! (Korean)
- Chúc mừng năm mới! (Vietnamese)
- Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu! (Japanese)
February 19 marks the beginning of the Year of the Sheep for many families around the world including Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese. Traditionally held as a 15-day festival, Lunar New Year is a significant time for many UBC students, faculty and staff, alumni both here and throughout Asia, and most certainly for many of the residents that live in the UBC neighbourhood.
Indeed, one-third of UBC’s student population has some direct connection to Chinese heritage, language, culture and identity. Add to that the number of Korean and Vietnamese international and Canadian-born students, all the mixed-race Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese students, and then all the students who are connected to Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese families. UBC also has a noticeably significant number of visiting scholars from China and other parts of East Asia in many departments and faculties on campus.
For many families, Lunar New Year is bigger than Christmas or the Gregorian New Year (January 1). Lunar New Year brings more alumni back home to Vancouver than any other major event. It’s one of the few times in the year where families separated by great distances make the effort to be together.
Although commonly referred to as “Chinese New Year,” the Lunar New Year is celebrated by many distinct cultures, making it one of the most significant intercultural celebrations around the world. It is a great opportunity for the UBC community to grow our cultural literacy and learn about the range of traditional practices amongst various Chinese communities in and/or from Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, for example. It’s also an opportunity for us to become more familiar with Seolnal, the Korean New Year, and Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. Until 1873, Lunar New Year was also officially celebrated in Japan.
Lunar New Year includes celebrations by various student clubs, departments and the University Neighbourhoods Association on campus, as well as activities throughout the city in the next few weeks.
For many people in Vancouver the annual Chinese New Year Parade is a highlight of the season, bringing together 50,000+ spectators in Vancouver’s Chinatown on Sunday, February 22. If you are attending the event we’d love to see your pictures on Instagram or twitter with #LunarUBC.
There are many great events taking place on campus. See the complete list at diversity.ubc.ca.
I hope everyone at the Vancouver campus has an opportunity to attend these events. If the traditions are new to you, we’ve posted information about the Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese New Year traditions on diversity.ubc.ca. We’d love to hear about your family’s unique Lunar New Year traditions.
Why is the Year of the Sheep significant to UBC? Or how might it be meaningful to you?
First of all, 2015 in the Chinese zodiac is supposed to be especially lucky for those born in the Year of the Ram (2003, 1991, 1979, 1967, 1955, 1943, 1931). The meaning of the Sheep in traditional Chinese culture is also shared amongst many cultures. The Sheep is seen as highly creative and innovative which bodes well for UBC and our pursuit of research excellence and the bold and innovative solutions our community aspires to make.
With that, I wish you and your family health, prosperity and good fortune for 2015. For everyone on campus I wish you the best for your wellbeing, learning, teaching, research, strategic planning, fundraising, culture-changing and community-building for 2015.