Celebrating the Lunar New Year, connecting with the PGR Community

This 1st February will be the Lunar New Year’s Day, a major festival that will be celebrated in most East Asian countries. In this post, Buxi Duan, an international PGR in the Department of English Literature and a Westmere Scholar, shares his recollections and expectations.

Speaking of the upcoming Lunar New Year/Chinese New Year, most of my friends are planning to celebrate it by having a good dinner and FaceTiming with their parents. Similar to Christmas, Lunar New Year also means family reunion. However, I’ve never thought that this would be my fourth Lunar New Year in the UK.

Lunar New Year decorations at the Arcadian Centre in Birmingham.
Photo credit: Tony Hisgett

Back in 2018, I had a busy but satisfying Lunar New Year family reunion before heading to Britain. On Lunar New Year’s Eve, my folks and I visited my grandparents on my father’s side and spent a few days with them. In the meantime, other family relatives joined us. While playing mahjong or preparing traditional cuisines, parents ‘bragged’ about their kids (mostly their academic progress). As for ‘kids’, like my cousins and I, we played video games and had anime marathons ‘for a break’. I can barely recall who won the game or what the anime was about but I clearly remember the feeling – that kind of satisfaction you could only enjoy while spending time with family. Oh yes, and the excitement comparing how much money we got in our red packets – a tradition to put some money in a red envelope, representing one’s best wishes to the recipient. Though virtual red packet was much more convenient, my family still followed the tradition. Personally I like physical red packets as they’re special, especially the one from my parents – their handwriting is beautiful, so it’s an enjoyment to read their card before checking the amount. I still had it with me and often used it to add some festive vibes while celebrating Lunar New Year in Britain.

Influenced by the pandemic and travel restrictions, most international students, especially PGRs, are in the same position and haven’t been able to return to their countries. But at UoB, our PGR community is a big family for you and the University Graduate School is dedicated to supporting PGRs and keep this community diverse and friendly. With the success of Westmere Christmas Party last December, we are preparing a series of PGR-focused cultural and social events, including the upcoming Lunar New Year event. As an international Westmere scholar, I’ll be hosting this party on Lunar New Year’s Eve (Monday, 31st Jan) with my colleague, Matty, from the School of Government. Unlike other Lunar New Year activities that focus on spreading culture, we’re expecting to provide a venue for international and local PGRs to meet, connect, and work together. From my quick research, I understand that people celebrate Lunar New Year differently around the world. Even in China, there’re still differences between the North and the South, coastal and inland areas. For example, in my hometown, we tend to eat dumplings on Lunar New Year’s Day while some other places prefer wontons. By sharing local customs celebrating the Lunar New Year, I’m expecting we can learn and appreciate each other’s uniqueness and further establish a sense of belonging to the PGR community as UoBers.

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