Pitt welcomes the Year of the Tiger with a Lunar New Year celebration


John Blair | Senior Staff Photographer

The Global Hub in Posvar hosted a Lunar New Year celebration on Wednesday.

By Renee Dubaich, For The Pitt News

Late January and early February is the special time of year when Joy Prasch said she can really appreciate her identity. Every other day, she said it’s sometimes hard to acknowledge her Chinese background.

“I’m really glad that they do events like this, where students with Asian backgrounds can come together and celebrate their traditions,” Prasch said.

Prasch and many other Pitt students and faculty stopped by the Global Hub on Wednesday to enjoy the Lunar New Year celebration organized in a collaboration with the Asian Studies Center. Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year, is a festival that celebrates the beginning of the new year based on the lunar calendar.

Prasch, a first-year chemistry major, lives right outside of Philadelphia but was adopted from China. She has celebrated Chinese traditions like Lunar New Year throughout her life and said the celebration in the Global Hub reminded her of these traditions.

“I tried some of the homemade dumplings, watched a bit of the dragon dance that played on the screen and made an origami tiger, all of which I enjoyed and appreciated,” Prasch said. “I thought the decor at the Global Hub was beautiful, as it incorporated reds and yellows, and the hanging streamers with short stories and riddles were very nice as well.”

The event included a photo booth, making feng shui good luck charms and origami tigers, eating mandarin oranges and dumplings or “jiaozi” as well as watching street festivals and parades that took place across the world on the Engagement Wall, the large screen in the Global Hub.

James Cook, the associate director of the Asian Studies Center, said the event was meant to recreate traditions that are found in Lunar New Year practices.

“This includes eating certain foods which are supposed to bring wealth and prosperity. Dumplings or jiaozi are a favorite because the term also refers to a form of money in China,” he said.

Pitt students make origami tiger crafts at a Lunar New Year celebration hosted in Posvar’s Global Hub on Wednesday. (John Blair | Senior Staff Photographer)

The United States uses the solar calendar, which causes the New Year to occur on a set date each year. Cook explained that in many Asian societies, the lunar calendar is used rather than the solar calendar. According to the lunar calendar, every year is a part of a different cycle and corresponds with a different animal and element, according to the zodiac. This year is the year of the tiger.

“Last year, 2020, was the year of the rat which was really about survival, and the year of the ox which was 2021, was about anchoring ourselves, and then the year of the tiger, 2022, will be about big changes,” Cook said. “Many believe that this year will be a year of risk-taking and adventure. Hopefully, we are going to find some enthusiasm for doing things as well.”

Cook also said each year is associated with one of the five elements — earth, water, fire, wood and metal. This year is the year of the water tiger.

“Water brings out emotions more than any other element. So we can see that this will be a particularly enthusiastic and possibly volatile year as well,” Cook said.

Cook said the holiday has a monumental cultural impact in China during this time of year.

“Generally, in exception to this year, you would see literally hundreds of millions of people moving across China as they come home from factories or other cities to spend time with their families and we now see it as the largest movement of people in human history,” Cook said.

Tony Qian, a graduate student studying library information science, attended the event. He is from Shanghai and celebrates the Lunar New Year annually.

“I celebrated with relatives, but celebrated it here for New Years,” Qian said.

At the event, Qian also participated in making a feng shui good luck charm, which is a popular craft in Chinese tradition during Lunar New Year. It is supposed to bring luck, wealth, success and good fortune. This is made by taking a red tassel string and three Chinese coins, stringing the coins on the string and interlocking the thread under and above through the coins until a triangular shape forms.

Karen Lue, the manager of the Global Hub, said Lunar New Year is one of the most important holidays in the East and Southeast Asian countries that celebrate it. This includes China, Vietnam, Korea, Mongolia and others in the Asian diaspora. Each country has its own traditions and way of celebrating the holiday.

“It’s just a really big holiday, especially on campus and Pittsburgh in general,” Lue said. “We have a lot of groups from these populations, so I think it’s really nice to be able to have a celebration for this really big holiday, especially if you’re away from family and you aren’t able to spend it how you would traditionally — at least we can have some form of it here.”

Lue said the Global Hub has hosted a lot of events like this. She said the space is meant to be a resource of opportunities for international students and for those who want to learn more about different cultures.

“Our whole mission and purpose is to make all of the global and international opportunities at Pitt more accessible,” Lue said. “In terms of the event today, what we attempt to do is to recreate or help bring about the traditions that are found in Lunar New Year practices.”

Pitt hosted a Lunar New Year celebration back in 2020, and according to Lue, it was a big hit. The event was canceled in 2021 because of the pandemic. This year, they were excited to host the event again.

“Pretty much last year we did all of our events virtually, I don’t even think we did this event online – it’s just not the same for that kind of celebration. I’m glad we are able to do it in person this year,” Lue said.

Cook encouraged all students to spend this time of the year to embrace or learn more about East and Southeast Asian culture – especially through food.

“It’s a good time to be meeting with friends and enjoying the food of our local Chinese or Vietnamese restaurants. Many of them will have special menus this time of the year, so please get out and enjoy as much of the culture as possible,” he said.