This being my first year studying abroad, I am no stranger to homesickness or the constant reminder that I am 7,286 miles away from my hometown Shanghai. With much of my surroundings at Concord Academy still seeming a little unfamiliar, the knowledge that it is nearly impossible for me to return to Shanghai anytime soon (China’s mandatory 21-day quarantine policy for all foreign arrivals far exceeds the length of breaks at CA) only enhances a surge of nostalgia. As the Lunar New Year approaches on February 1, my mind overflows with images of sitting alongside family members on a large round table—symbolizing reunion—and enjoying traditional foods. Warmth and festivity linger in my brain and distract me from focusing on mundane school days. 

COVID concerns and the workload at CA are no help in lessening my nostalgia and desire to celebrate the Lunar New Year. The beloved custom of hotpots is now potentially hazardous for transmitting infection. International students celebrating the Lunar New Year ponder whether making dumplings would be virus-safe and time efficient on January 31 after the busiest school day (Monday) with the heaviest workload. 

Previously, on every New Year’s Eve, I would gather with my family around the television at precisely 7:30 p.m. to watch China Central Television’s (CCTV) New Year Gala. The next day, four generations dressed in red would assemble at a restaurant for the traditional family dinner. The youngest generation, including me, would receive red packets filled with money, symbolizing fortunate wishes and blessings for the year ahead. Cousins from all around the country would greet each other with warm hugs.

This year, I will be completing homework during study hall and climbing a total of 18 floors to do my laundry. The next morning, I will be eating oatmeal and scrambled eggs in the StuFac and will gather with CA classmates in the Chapel at precisely 9:20 a.m. to listen to an inspirational chapel. The next day, I will have to wake up earlier for the early start in the morning and continue to eat my oatmeal and scrambled eggs. Rather different than my usual celebrations, I would say.

On the other hand, I am glad to be able to celebrate with my closest friends without limits, guidelines, and occasionally boring customs. Back in Shanghai, I would usually wander away from the show within 10 minutes of the New Year Gala and begin internet surfing. I would occasionally get sick of taking care of boisterous three-year-old cousins and strive to find excuses to depart early. I will indeed miss my red packets, but thanks to WeChat Pay, I will probably end up getting them electronically anyway. Also thanks to WeChat, I will be able to call my parents and my brother to celebrate with them at night. Thank you, technology!

However, there are a few things I think CA can consider to better support students celebrating the Lunar New Year:

  1. One-day break on New Year’s day: For other special holidays such as Yom Kippur, Presidents’ Day, Patriots’ Day, and Memorial Day, CA gives all students a one-day holiday. However, for Lunar New Year, which is akin to the significance of Christmas and celebrated by many students, it should not be the case that just a day’s break is not given.
  2. Decorations: The school can, or encourage clubs to, get Lunar New Year decorations such as lanterns and paper window flowers around the campus to encourage festivity.
  3. Food: Despite community dinners, the school can consider providing dumplings and other traditional food during the weekday so day students can also celebrate and enjoy. 
  4. Variety: Accommodate a variety of celebrations for different groups of Lunar New Year celebrators. Different cultures celebrate the festival in different ways, so it is hard to come to a consensus on how to celebrate if clubs and affinity groups only congregate. 

I am grateful and excited to celebrate with many weekend activities and a Lunar New Year-themed community dinner. However, improvements can be made, and student voices should be heard. Under any circumstances, I wish everyone a happy Lunar New Year in the year of the tiger. 祝大家虎年吉祥如意!