Students ring in Lunar New Year with traditional clothing

Anna Feng and Tara Kapoor

With Lunar New Year festivities until Feb. 15, Palo Alto High School students are highlighting their culture and welcoming the new year, including by wearing traditional Chinese attire.

To recognize the start of the Year of the Tiger, junior Ariel Hong organized and provided traditional clothing for fellow students. According to Hong, dressing up for Lunar New Year — a major holiday in many Asian cultures — has been a way for them to celebrate their Asian-American identity.

“We saw a rise in racism towards East Asians especially during the pandemic, and it’s something that’s caused a lot of Asian-Americans to speak up about racism,” Hong said. “Many East Asian cultures have a grin-and-bear-it approach to negative experiences especially based on race. It’s made a lot of people, including myself, reflect on my racial and national identity.”

Junior Mars Bau, senior Emily Wang, junior Ariel Hong, senior April Wu, sophomore Shuya Lam, senior Franklin Wang, and junior Vincent Chen pose in traditional Chinese attire on Lunar New Year on Monday. These seven were among Paly students who celebrated the new year on campus, spotlighting the lively spirit as well as cultural significance of Lunar New Year. For junior Ariel Hong, “This [dressing up] is one way to express and celebrate that [Lunar New Year], which is arguably the most important holiday in Chinese culture.” (Photo: Jonathan Chen).
Lunar New Year falls each year on the new moon between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20, and spans two weeks until the full moon. This year, Lunar New Year officially began on Feb. 1 and will end on Feb. 15. For many, including sophomore Shuya Lam, dressing up in special attire during the Lunar New Year is a way to honor family and ancestors.

“Hanfu traditional clothing is kind of representative of where I come from, my roots,” Lam said. “Dressing up is just cool and fun to wear, especially the cultural aspects, but it’s also really pretty.”

According to Lam, they wore an outer robe composed of black and red crow feathers, overlapping layers of fabric sewn in, and strands of gold on top of a shirt and long skirt. 

“You’re not supposed to wear black [unless with red], but red is a very auspicious color in Chinese culture,” Lam said. “The [clothing] style is very flowy and it’s pretty light.”

For Hong, wearing traditional clothing at school did make them stand out, but students on campus were encouraging about it. 

“It [dressing up] is something that we knew was going to feel pretty awkward going into it,” Hong said. “But at the end of the day it’s not really awkward unless you think it’s awkward, and there were people who walked by and made comments on it, but they were all positive.”

According to senior Franklin Wang, dressing up was a way to get together to commemorate this important holiday. 

“It’s about bonding with friends over shared culture and heritage and just having fun with it,” Wang said.

In addition, Hong said dressing up in traditional attire during the Lunar New Year is typical, and they were excited to express this at Paly.

“Dressing up for special occasions is pretty common,” Hong said. “Being able to do that sort of reinforces a sense of community and wearing something new to the Paly community was one way to bring that into school.”