Celebrating Lunar New Year From Afar: Meet Mandy Nguyen

Tuesday, February 1, marks the beginning of Lunar New Year, a festival that celebrates the beginning of a new year on the traditional lunar calendar. Although this is the third Lunar New Year Mandy Nguyen has spent away from her family, she plans to make the best of it by sharing some of her traditions from home like cooking Vietnamese comfort food and sharing red envelopes, which symbolize good wishes and luck for the year ahead, with her friends here at CBU.

Mandy is from An Giang, Vietnam, and is in her third year of the Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) and the Bachelor of Hospitality and Tourism Management (BHTM) programs at CBU. Mandy is also the Vice President of Promotions in the CBU Students’ Union. Coming from the mountains of Vietnam, when Mandy was given the opportunity to study abroad, she knew she wanted to live and explore somewhere on an island or within a coastal region.

“CBU is located on one of the most beautiful islands in Canada, which is what encouraged me to apply,” shares Mandy. “Studying abroad is more than just studying. It’s about exploring, experiencing new people, landscapes and cultures and a new lifestyle. I’m thankful that Cape Bretoners have always been so welcoming and made me feel at home.”

As we celebrate Lunar New Year here at CBU, Mandy happily recalls some of her favorite family traditions. These include picking up colourful flowers with her dad, hanging up the antithetical couplet – two phrases or sentences written as calligraphy on vertical red banners, or “câu đối”, staying up late on Lunar New Year’s Eve to watch the fireworks and preparing for ritual offerings to welcome the spirits of their ancestors and the Kitchen God back into the home for another year. 

On the first day of the New Year, Mandy says she usually spends her time studying, as it is said that if you are hard working on the first day of New Year, you will have the motivation to keep being hard working throughout the year. If she were home, she would then go to the temples to pick buds for luck (“hái lộc”) with her mom, followed by traveling to her mom and dad’s hometowns to visit with their relatives. 

“My favorite part of Lunar New Year is lucky money,” says Mandy. “The kids, or the younger people in the family, wish their parents and elders a new year full of prosperity, luck and health. My uncles usually give me extra if they love my greetings!” 

Despite not being able to celebrate at home, she is happy she is able to video call her family almost everyday. “Being away from home is hard, but talking with my little brother always helps,” says Mandy. “He sends me lots of pictures of the house to show me how they decorated and what dishes my parents are cooking.”

Due to COVID-19 and the safety and wellbeing of everyone, Mandy isn’t planning to hang out with her friends, but plans to cook some Vietnamese comfort food to drop off and share with them. Mandy credits her Canadian mom and her friends who appreciate her culture and are so willing and excited to learn more about where she grew up. She’ll also be working with the CBUSU Multicultural Hub Coordinator to prepare exciting Lunar New Year content for social media and some Lunar New Year giveaways! 

From everyone at Cape Breton University, Happy Lunar New Year!