The Success Lion Dragon Dance Troupe performs at the Lunar New Year event. Nakeya Francis (right) holds out a head of lettuce for the lion as part of a Chinese lion dance tradition. Photo credit: Jayme Mutchmor

Algonquin staff and students gathered in the Student Commons of E-building this past Monday to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

The Lunar New Year fell on Sunday, Jan. 22, and to celebrate, the Algonquin Students’ Association provided students with free food, informative pop-up tables and a traditional dance by Ottawa’s Success Dragon Lion Dance Troupe.

“We have info tables set up by some of our international students,” said Nakeya Francis, the diversity and inclusivity event coordinator for the Students’ Association. “So basically, they’re going to display some of their traditions, and talk about the differences because every country celebrates Lunar New Year differently.”

The tables, which represented China, Korea and Vietnam, showcased traditional music, games and food.

“It’s like Christmas for western people,” said Hai-Anh Vu, the senior regional manager of Southeast Asia for the Algonquin International Education Centre. “We are celebrating the Lunar New Year, and it is the occasion for us to have family reunions and catch up with friends and relatives.”

Students got to enjoy a dance performance by the Success Dragon Lion Dance Troupe before they grabbed a bite to eat. Everything was made in-house by Algonquin’s hospitality department.

“We collabed with students who work in the kitchen who are of Asian descent,” said Francis. “They really wanted to do that so it’s all about really incorporating the students and trying to celebrate them and make them feel proud of who they are.”

There were a variety of different Asian dishes served such as Korean fried chicken, kimchi pancakes, pork dumplings, mango rolls and bulgogi beef baos.

“The dance was really nice, and the food is also,” said Esha Vig, a first-year business intelligence systems infrastructure student. “It relaxes the mind a bit from all the tensions and stress.”

The lunar year follows the 12 cycles of the moon. Each lunar year is signified by one of the 12 zodiac animals: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. In Vietnam, the cat is honoured instead of the rabbit, and the buffalo instead of the ox.

“It’s the year of the rabbit for most countries, except for Vietnam. [There] it is the year of the cat,” said Vu. “It’s a long holiday, normally lasting at least two weekends and a full week. The country is shut down for nine days.”

Ewan Blagden, a second-year game development student, believes campus events like this one are important in helping community members learn more about each others’ cultures. “[They] make Algonquin into a more unified and social space for everyone,” he said.