Lloyd Phinney, one of “Lunars” emcees, hangs letters at the entrance of the drive-in held at UGA’s Intramural Fields E01 lot on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2021. In celebration of the Lunar New Year, the Asian American Student Association at UGA hosted a drive-in and live stream this year for their annual cultural show, “Lunars.” (Photo/ Jessica Gratigny; @jgratphoto)

One week after the 2021 Lunar New Year, cars rolled into the University of Georgia intramural fields E01 parking lot to continue the celebrations. Asian pop music floated on the chilly night breeze as friends gathered to build a socially distanced community with which to celebrate the new year.

On Saturday, Feb. 20, the UGA Asian American Student Association hosted their annual cultural show, Lunars. To ensure the safety of all attendees amidst the pandemic, in-person attendance was drive-in only, and all performances were also streamed on YouTube.

Past celebrations have featured live performances, but the 2021 showcase was instead recorded ahead of time. Despite the changes, the sense of community shared between those who attended the drive-in event transcended the physical distance between them.

The Lunar New Year festival is a tradition of the Asian American Student Association, and it signals and celebrates the arrival of the new lunar year. This holiday is recognized as a time to appreciate and be close with family and friends.

Jamie Le and Ashley Dey are co-directors of the Lunars event. They hoped this celebration kickstarted a year that is better, more reliable and less chaotic than the previous year has been.

“Our goal with Lunars is just to bring a happier overall mood for the new year. We really hope that Lunars can give everyone, but especially the Asian American community a better outlook going into the new year,” Le said.

The Chinese zodiac rotates through 12-year repeating cycles, with each year being represented by an animal. This fresh lunar year is that of the Ox, which commonly signifies reliability, honesty, humility, diligence and determination.

“We hope that we can bring a lot of success in strength, and we hope that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel after such a difficult year,” Le said in a previous February 2021 interview with The Red & Black.

The theme of Lunars is “Back to Our Roots,” and AASA hopes that this year can allow us all to mend the relationships that were lost in the past year during such intense periods of isolation and allow us to find healing in our roots.

Enoch Lee and Miguel Silan directed the two short films showcased in Lunars: “Twine” and “Into the River.” Shown first was “Twine,” which tells the story of a young man, Kevin, following his red string of fate.

The red string of fate is a metaphorical string that is believed to be connected to your pinky finger. This string connects you to all of the people with whom you are predestined to have a connection with in your life, according to an AASA Instagram post.

Senior French major Rachel Askin, who has been attending Lunars for three years, first heard about the event from a friend who is on the executive board.

“I was really impressed by [“Twine”]. I liked how it was based on a folktale of sorts, just an older story that’s important to the culture. I also was really impressed by the acting and production value,” Askin said.

The second short film, “Into the River,” has a focus on the parallel between life and death, and explores the way that love and companionship can bridge the gap between the two. Following a year of isolation and loneliness for many, this short film resonated with viewers more than ever.

Packed full of symbolism and emotion, it left Askin feeling, “simple sadness. The content and emotions were really complex, and I really had to search for my own deeper meaning,” Askin said.

The showcase also featured music and dancing performances, activities which are traditionally included in Lunar New Year celebrations. AASA put a modern spin on one of the most important common traditions to their diverse student body.

The event was recorded and will be accessible on YouTube to anyone interested. This is a really special aspect to Le, as she is excited to be able to look back and, “remember every single part and detail that we’ve all worked so hard on.”

AASA showed true adaptability through adversity with this event, arguably one of the most important aspects of perseverance and determination, and thus truly embodied the characteristics of the ox as they welcomed an incredible new year.