calligraphy activity at lunar new year festival 2019
Nicholas School community members try their hand at calligraphy. (Photo Credit: Stella Wang)


By Stella Wang, Nicholas School Communications Student Assistant

DURHAM, N.C. -- More than 100 students, faculty, and staff at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment came together on Feb. 1 to celebrate Lunar New Year and mark the start of the Year of the Pig.

The celebration in Grainger Hall featured food and activities from various cultures that observe the holiday, including Chinese, Malaysian, Korean and Japanese.  

This is the second year that the Nicholas School’s Global Connections Initiative and D&I Actionators have sponsored a school-wide Lunar New Year event.

Lunar New Year is rooted in agrarian traditions in which separated family members travel even long distances to be together.

Participants play the Chopstick Challenge, a traditional New Year's game.

By including traditions from different cultures and inviting people from all backgrounds to take part in them, Friday night’s event captured the spirit of the holiday, said Yuncheng Liu, a second-year Master of Environmental Management (MEM) student.

“Despite people’s varied traditions, it is universal at this time of year to gather with the Nicholas family,” he said. His favorite activity of the evening was exchanging red envelopes because “the reciprocity of giving and receiving” is central to the occasion.

First-year MEM student Vicky Jia also enjoyed the communal vibe. “I can truly feel everyone contributing to this community,” she said, adding how “grateful and proud” she is to be a member of the Nicholas School and how integral students, faculty, and staff are to making events like Friday night’s gathering so successful.

The event was a valuable learning experience for those who had never previously celebrated Lunar New Year.

Customary red envelopes contain "lucky money" bestowing happiness and good fortune upon recipients.

“I had a great time attempting to write the Chinese character for spring, learning about the regional differences in dumplings, and folding paper stars,” said Walker Grimshaw, a second-year MEM. “This was my first Lunar New Year celebration, and I loved all the positive energy in the building.”

Celebrations continued on Tuesday, Feb. 5 – the true day of the 2019 Lunar New Year – with a community gathering and free lunch at the Duke University Marine Lab in Beaufort, N.C., and with snacks in Grainger Hall.