Celebrating Lunar New Year at John’s

Haoyu Hu explores some of the celebrations that took place in the College in January to celebrate Lunar New Year.

With the advent of the Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival, a traditional festive season for family-gathering, well-wishing, and merrymaking widely observed in Asian countries and communities, St. John’s College was tinged with a jubilant atmosphere in which students with different backgrounds jointly rejoiced in this time of union and togetherness. Starting from 22nd January, which ushered in the new year of the rabbit, celebrations and events were carried out by staff and students in college to signal a new beginning as well as the sense of community that the Lunar New Year represents. 

John’s first Chinese New Year Formal, organised by the catering team and student volunteers, took place on 23rd January, the second day of the Lunar New Year. In preparation of this formal, the Food and Formals team formed an organising committee comprised of international students who volunteered to discuss ideas about a menu, decorations, and dress-code that best illustrated a Chinese New Year feast. To create the right ambience, Leech Hall was hung with lanterns and spring couplets, namely red paper scrolls with propitious verses inscribed on them, some of which were written by students themselves. Tables were arranged in squares to emulate the round tables traditionally used in a New Year dinner that symbolizes reunion, and guests were invited to wear garments and accoutrements with red on them – red being the colour of the Lunar New Year, standing for fortune and prosperity. 

The three-course meal served at the formal was likewise designed in the fashion of Chinese New Year dishes: we had spring rolls and dim sum as the starter, roasted chicken legs in Chinese barbequed sauce with rice as the main course, and egg tarts and fortune cookies as desserts. Moreover, there was performance of traditional Chinese musical instruments by a guest performer, which greatly enhanced the vibrant atmosphere of the event. Playing three different instruments – the guzheng, the hulusi, and the bawu – the guest performed several Chinese folk and pop songs, including Shuidiao Getou (Water Melody), Blue and White Porcelain, and The Sounds of Snowfall, while the audience sang along to the familiar tunes. With festive decorations, Chinese dishes, and traditional music, the Chinese New Year Formal brought Johnians together as a family at a hearty dinner gathering. 

According to tradition, celebrations and festivities of the Spring Festival last from the first new moon of the lunar calendar to the first full moon, which marks the Lantern Festival, or Yuan Xiao Festival. On 4th February, the Middle Common Room of John’s held the first social event of the term to celebrate this traditional festival. Members of MCR gathered in the Andy Corkhill Room decorated with red papers for games, snacks and drinks from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. With jovial games and sweet treats customarily associated with Lantern Festival, MCR’s event made a light-hearted finale to the Lunar New Year at John’s. 

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