Courtesy of Fiadh Sheeran

On Monday, Jan. 23, around a dozen students gathered at the base of Harkness Tower in the Buddhist shrine on campus for a candlelight ceremony and prayer, commemorating the Lunar New Year.

Around the world, Buddhist communities celebrate this holiday in a variety of ways. This was the second consecutive year that the Lunar New Year was celebrated at the Yale Buddhist shrine. The hour-long event — which began at 7 p.m. — involved a variety of traditional Buddhist activities such as the recitations of mantras, singing of hymns, prostrations, a short meditation, offering lamps in the form of LED candles and incense. At the conclusion of the event, participants received red envelopes and tangerines.

“I’ve definitely found a home with the Buddhist spiritual community,” Eli White ’25 said. “I’m also especially excited about the community that has been forming around Monday night chantings. There’s people who come to the shrine room who don’t even identify as Buddhists, which I also think is wonderful because it’s just awesome to see a space that has such far reaching capacity for compassion and healing for people.”

White — who was an attendee at the Lunar New Year celebration and regularly participates in the time of chanting held at the Buddhist shrine every Monday night — only became part of the Buddhist community last May. White was also involved in the setup of the event, preparing small LED candles for each attendee.

Andrew Nguy GRD ’23, who currently serves as the graduate co-president of the Yale Buddhist Student Community, led the celebration at the Buddhist shrine. He first started this event last year as he was inspired by his own experiences in the Buddhist community. For Nguy, who grew up going to local temples during the Lunar New Year, not knowing any Mandarin Chinese or Vietnamese proved to be challenging as he struggled to understand and connect with the celebration.

“When I thought about how we could celebrate [the Lunar New Year] at the Buddhist shrine, I wanted to make it accessible linguistically by providing English guidance, but also preserve that festive atmosphere with passing out red envelopes, sharing fruit, especially tangerines, with people,” Nguy told the News.

Much of the preparation for the event involved setting up the Buddhist shrine space to imitate the traditional cultural celebrations and religious rituals that occur in many Buddhist temples.

The intimate event was also meaningful for other students who had celebrated the Lunar New Year in a Buddhist context prior to coming to Yale.

“I think I enjoyed just meeting other people who are part of the [Buddhist] community and it’s just an important time of year because usually I celebrate this time of year with my family, so it’s nice to just meet other people and to do something to feel more connected to the community,” Emily Cheung ’26, who grew up Buddhist and is an active member of the Yale Buddhist Student Community, said.

The Yale Buddhist Student Community is led by Rev. Sumi Kim, who serves as the Buddhist Chaplain at Yale.

Joshua Zhang previously covered religious life and culture at Yale. Originally from San Diego, California, he is a second year in Branford College majoring in Computer Science and Economics.