Bittersweet Holidays: My First Lunar New Year Away from Home

Repost of my article published for Her Campus BU on February 19, 2021. You can read it on their website here too.

As expected, moving 3,000 miles away from home for college means that you are going to miss a lot of family time. With that, you also miss many family holiday celebrations. The Lunar New Year started this past Friday, and it was the first one I’ve spent away from family. This holiday is meant to be celebrated around your loved ones and family to bring in the new year with good luck and fortune. But spending it in my dorm without my mom’s home-cooked meals was bittersweet.

On the second day of the new year, I was on a video call with my extended family, and it felt like old times when we would go out to eat with all my cousins, aunts and uncles on the first available weekend we all had. I missed the family camaraderie a lot. However, even on my own, I still tried to keep up with all of the traditions and superstitions that you’re supposed to follow when celebrating the new year (at least in Chinese culture, I can’t speak about the differences in other Asian countries). I didn’t eat meat on the first day. I cleaned up beforehand. I ate apples and pears. I still got my red envelope in the mail from my parents. My mom sent me a box of my favorite new year’s sweets the day before too, which was very nice of her. It was the same actions without my parents and siblings by my side. With this holiday, I didn’t realize that I would feel homesick so early in the semester too, especially after coming back to campus after spending almost six weeks at home.

Of course, I knew this was going to happen when I decided to go to college farther than a weekend drive home, but the holidays away still feel off. Thanksgiving was like this as well. A holiday that mostly is a day for eating surrounded by family was spent in my dorm on a Zoom call with them instead.

I also miss going to Chinatown on the weekend of the new year to see the lion and dragon dances. This year, I had planned to see them here in Boston’s Chinatown, but the pandemic changed those plans. I miss the crowds of people watching the performances and following the people down the streets as they go to different storefronts to scare away evil spirits. It’s a very loud event when they’re lighting the firecrackers and playing drums as they go by, but I really enjoy it. There’s also the fun of eating good Chinese food that makes me feel warm inside too. It’s definitely weird not going after so many years of visiting Chinatown to eat food and celebrate.

On a less personal note, this Lunar New Year was also shadowed by the terrible racist and xenophobic acts against Asian Americans. I can’t help but think history is repeating itself only in the span of the year because it was this time last year when there were other anti-Asian actions as news started reaching the United States about the virus. I don’t like how this has come back around full-circle a year later. It’s an unfortunate situation that I hope will get better as soon as possible.

Moving forward, please be kind to everyone, support local businesses, and to those who celebrate it, Happy Lunar New Year!