Old Traditions, During The New Norm: Muye Li

Despite the pandemic, Muye Li will still be bringing the excitement of Lunar New Year to Cape Breton this year by making dumplings with his friends and sending pictures of them to his loved ones back in China. Muye Li is an international student from Beijing, China who enrolled in CBU’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) program in 2019.  

Prior to becoming a CBU student and moving to Cape Breton, Muye Li had never lived on an island before. “I really wanted to find out what it feels like to live in a city surrounded by rivers and the ocean. That’s why I chose to attend CBU,” he says. “Also, the nature in Canada is magnificent, which is another reason I chose to come to Canada.”

If Muye Li were home this year and this was a typical year, his Lunar New Year celebration would include a family reunion, where elders would give money sealed in red envelopes to the younger generations and they would celebrate with snacks, dumplings, fried foods, and fireworks. Everyone would then sit together on the couch and watch the New Year ceremony on TV. Muye Li adds that he will be able to celebrate virtually with his family and friends back home by video calling them via WeChat and sharing the cooking process with them, as well as the feast. 

In the Lunar Calendar, there are several special traditions practiced leading up to Lunar New Year’s Eve. “We start the week by eating Zaotang, which is a candy made from maltose or malt sugar, then we clean the whole house on the following day,” he describes. “The next five days we make tofu, pork, chicken, we let the paste rest, and then we make the buns.”

On Lunar New Year’s Eve, Muye Li notes that his family boils the dumplings during the countdown because the boiling dumplings sound like the fireworks that go off at midnight.

Muye Li will be celebrating Lunar New Year in Cape Breton this year and will pick up all of the ingredients needed for a proper Lunar New Year’s Eve. Him and his friends will also decorate their room with a red theme. “We’ll make stew, dumplings and deep fried food on Lunar New Year’s Eve, and then we’ll party (following all public health protocols) all night long!”

On behalf of everyone at Cape Breton University, Happy Lunar New Year!