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Lunar New Year Celebrations at Emmanuel College’s Interfaith Event

Feb. 03, 2023

Emmanuel College celebrated its unique interfaith learning approach with a celebration of Lunar New Year at Victoria College’s chapel. The chapel’s iconic stained-glass windows cast a colourful light on a vibrant service featuring diverse voices of many faiths and traditions. 

Interfaith Gatherings take place twice a month as a way to encounter and experience the religious and spiritual perspectives of the many faith communities represented on our campus. This week’s gathering celebrated the Year of the Rabbit and showcased the customs and practices of many Asian faith communities.  

Lunar New Year celebrations have taken place at Emmanuel College in collaboration with the Committee on Asian/North American Asian Theologies (CANAAT) since 1996. 

Lunar New Year is celebrated widely in East Asian and Southeast Asian communities, including China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam. After the opening welcome, CANAAT member Dr. Joseph Kaung explained the Chinese New Year’s story of the kitchen deity named Zao Shen and why Chinese families don’t eat meat on the first day of the new year. 

Professor Henry Shiu, director of the Centre for Religion and its Context at Emmanuel College, discussed the role of Lunar New Year films in Hong Kong culture, the history of the lunisolar calendar and the evolution of the Chinese character for the word rabbit. Shiu offered an insightful look at the symbolic meaning of the new year and the Year of the Rabbit.  

Dr. Ray Whitehead, an Emmanuel alumnus, shared his personal experience of the lunar festivals in Hong Kong in the 1960s as someone who doesn’t celebrate the tradition. Emmanuel student Yijia Shao read a Buddhist poem about how the rabbit came to be on the moon. Another student, Wing Yi Wong, talked about Lunar New Year memories of her family and the importance of ancestral connections during this festival. 

At the end of the gathering, a group of Emmanuel College students learned to play Yut Nori, a Korean game that their peer, Hye Lim Yoon, fondly remembers playing with her family during Lunar New Year festivals.  

Emmanuel College student Hogan Brock says he enjoys the variety that comes with hearing from so many voices. “I love the uniqueness of how the speakers celebrate the new year," he says. "It's as if everyone has their own twists on the occasion.”

“I appreciate the rich and illustrative new year practices I have learned from the gathering,” said Emmanuel College student Julian Munro. "Next time I’m going to win at Yut Nori.” 

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