Vietnamese Student Association rings in Lunar New Year by fusing old and new traditions


Members of SDSU VSA wish everyone a Happy Lunar New Year through Discord. Courtesy of the SDSU VSA.

by Catlan Nguyen, Social Media Editor

Lunar New Year or “Tet” recently passed this Feb. 12, bringing the world into the Year of the Ox.

Due to the pandemic, the regular three-day festivals celebrating “Tet” were replaced with socially distanced and smaller celebrations.

For San Diego State’s Vietnamese Student Association, Lunar New Year became more of a fusion of new traditions and reminders of old ones.

The student organization hosted a movie screening of “Crazy Rich Asians” on Discord on Feb. 13. Before streaming the movie, the members played Kahoot! about Lunar New Year traditions and origins.

The Chinese zodiac calendar is on a 12-year cycle with each year marked by 12 different animals. 

The year also doesn’t have 365 days like an American year and is instead based on moon cycles or a lunar calendar.

Each animal brings with it characteristics that symbolize various personality traits, according to Chinese New Year’s website.

The animals include: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

Members of SDSU VSA played a Kahoot! about the traditions of Lunar New Year or "Tet."
Members of SDSU VSA played a Kahoot! about the traditions of Lunar New Year or “Tet.”

“Lunar New Year’s for Vietnamese people, especially in my family, the main highlight is good food,” SDSU VSA president and third year Sarah Hoang said. “My family is so big that the idea of cooking for each other and doing it together is what makes it special.”

Different Asian countries celebrate their own variations of Lunar New Year including China, Vietnam, Korea and Japan.

Common traditions include sharing certain greetings/sayings, sharing lucky money or “Li Xi” in red envelopes, cooking certain foods, card games, lighting incense to honor family members who have passed and decorating the house with orchids or chrysanthemums.

“I like coming together with my family to celebrate ‘Tet’ to enjoy food and each other’s company,” mechanical engineering second year Alvin Pham said.

However, the pandemic has changed how these traditions are carried on this year.

“What’s nice is some of my relatives actually mailed me my ‘Li Xi’ so it’s kind of funny that they still sent me money instead of doing like Venmo,” Hoang said. “They sent me the actual red envelopes still.”

Festivals and celebrations for “Tet” in China or Vietnam could go on for weeks. In America, they typically go on for about three days and highlights include dancing, fireworks, all kinds of food vendors, LED lights and much more. Parades with the iconic Chinese dragon dance costume are common as well.

Celebrating “Tet” is also not limited to just Chinese or Vietnamese people and other SDSU students have enjoyed celebrating the holiday by attending local festivals in the past.

“My family doesn’t really celebrate ‘Tet’ but what it means growing up where I’m from, Mira Mesa, there’s a huge Vietnamese community so it’s a large holiday,” TFM second year Simon Homer said. “It’s the same feeling you’d get from Christmas or any new year’s party for me and this is from someone who’s not Vietnamese or Chinese.”

Homer is Filipino and a member of SDSU VSA.

He also said the part of Vietnamese culture that sets it apart from others is the way strong work ethics are built into most Vietnamese people’s lifestyles and he admires that.

To find out more information about VSA, visit their instagram @sdsuvsa. For more information on Lunar New Year traditions, visit Chinese New Year’s website.