Happy Lunar New Year!

A message from Alden Habacon, Director of Intercultural Understanding at UBC

This February as you walk across campus you may overhear the many ways to wish someone a Happy Lunar New Year!

  • Gong Hay Fat Choy and Son Nihn Fai Lok! (Cantonese)
  • Gong Xi Fa Cai and Xin Nian Kuai Le! (Mandarin)
  • Sae-hae bok mani badeusayo! (Korean)
  • Chúc mừng năm mới! (Vietnamese)
  • Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu! (Japanese)

February 19 marks the beginning of the Year of the Sheep for many families around the world including Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese. Traditionally held as a 15-day festival, Lunar New Year is a significant time for many UBC students, faculty and staff, alumni both here and throughout Asia, and most certainly for many of the residents that live in the UBC neighbourhood.

Indeed, one-third of UBC’s student population has some direct connection to Chinese heritage, language, culture and identity. Add to that the number of Korean and Vietnamese international and Canadian-born students, all the mixed-race Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese students, and then all the students who are connected to Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese families. UBC also has a noticeably significant number of visiting scholars from China and other parts of East Asia in many departments and faculties on campus.

For many families, Lunar New Year is bigger than Christmas or the Gregorian New Year (January 1). Lunar New Year brings more alumni back home to Vancouver than any other major event. It’s one of the few times in the year where families separated by great distances make the effort to be together.

Although commonly referred to as “Chinese New Year,” the Lunar New Year is celebrated by many distinct cultures, making it one of the most significant intercultural celebrations around the world. It is a great opportunity for the UBC community to grow our cultural literacy and learn about the range of traditional practices amongst various Chinese communities in and/or from Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, for example. It’s also an opportunity for us to become more familiar with Seolnal, the Korean New Year, and Tet, the Vietnamese New Year. Until 1873, Lunar New Year was also officially celebrated in Japan.

Lunar New Year includes celebrations by various student clubs, departments and the University Neighbourhoods Association on campus, as well as activities throughout the city in the next few weeks.

For many people in Vancouver the annual Chinese New Year Parade is a highlight of the season, bringing together 50,000+ spectators in Vancouver’s Chinatown on Sunday, February 22. If you are attending the event we’d love to see your pictures on Instagram or twitter with #LunarUBC.

There are many great events taking place on campus. See the complete list at diversity.ubc.ca.

I hope everyone at the Vancouver campus has an opportunity to attend these events. If the traditions are new to you, we’ve posted information about the Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese New Year traditions on diversity.ubc.ca.  We’d love to hear about your family’s unique Lunar New Year traditions.

Why is the Year of the Sheep significant to UBC? Or how might it be meaningful to you?

First of all, 2015 in the Chinese zodiac  is supposed to be especially lucky for those born in the Year of the Ram (2003, 1991, 1979, 1967, 1955, 1943, 1931). The meaning of the Sheep in traditional Chinese culture is also shared amongst many cultures. The Sheep is seen as highly creative and innovative which bodes well for UBC and our pursuit of research excellence and the bold and innovative solutions our community aspires to make.

With that, I wish you and your family health, prosperity and good fortune for 2015. For everyone on campus I wish you the best for your wellbeing, learning, teaching, research, strategic planning, fundraising, culture-changing and community-building for 2015.


Alden Habacon
Director of Intercultural Understanding at UBC

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Photo Contest

The Institute of Asian Research ran their inaugural Lunar New Year Photo Contest in early February. The Institute sought images that best answered the question: What does the Lunar New Year look like to you?

The winning entries will receive a special prize and have their photograph featured on the Institute of Asian Research’s website and in the C.K. Choi Building.

Visit: www.iar.ubc.ca

DIY Decorations

Here are some website and video links to learn about Chinese paper cutting. Check the Events listing for paper-cutting workshops being held on campus.

Instruction websites:

Art of Chinese paper cutting

Symmetrical (2-Sided) Folding Graphic Instructions


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What is Lunar New Year?

Qian Wang

Qian Wang

A UBC professor on the traditions, celebrations and superstitions of this major holiday

February 19 is Lunar New Year, marked by lion dances, lucky red envelopes and firecrackers. Qian Wang, UBC’s Asian Studies Chinese language program director, says it’s a time for tradition, celebration, family reunion—and a little bit of superstition.

Read the full Q&A article at news.ubc.ca
Watch Qian’s interview on Global BC

Whatever Floats Your Goat: The 2015 Lunar New Year Animal Is Up For Debate
New Orleans public radio interview featuring Tsering Shakya, who teaches Tibetan literature at the University of British Columbia. Listen to story

President Gupta speaks at Lunar New Year Luncheon
In anticipation of the coming year of the sheep, on February 11, 2015, Professor Gupta and other members of the UBC community attended the annual Lunar New Year Luncheon. Alumni and friends of the UBC community enjoyed the opportunity to connect with the university and each other. Read Professor Gupta’s remarks here.

Lunar New Events

Decorations were placed on fencing near UBC bookstore, 6200 University Boulevard, on February 27 by University Neighbourhood Association volunteers.

Thank you to the University Neighbourhood Association and UTown@UBC Community Grant for donating the Lunar New Year decorations. Get your decoration while they last!

Saturday, February 28
Dim Sum at Sun Sui Wah for new UBC Staff

Thursday, March 5 – Last Day of Lunar New Year
UBC Student Dialogue group celebrates the last day of the Spring Festival.