Happy New Year — again
Hi everybody, and Happy New Year — yes, I know I wished you that a month ago, but now I’m talking about the new lunar year, which in Chinese terms is the Year of the Tiger.
Lunar years are important in many Asian cultures including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tibetan and many more. They’re also celebrated in western countries that have significant populations from these cultures — certainly it’s big in my Australian city, Melbourne, where we have big Chinese and Vietnamese celebrations, and cities like Bendigo and Ballarat, which have had significant Chinese populations since the 1850’s also celebrate in style. I also enjoyed the celebrations in Malaysia when my parents lived there.
An old friend of mine has a birthday on 31st January, and I recall one year, when we were students, a group of us had gone for Yum Cha at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants in the city. We’d forgotten it was Chinese New Year — the date changes every year — but we saw all the decorations in Chinatown, and thought it all looked great. We were happily tucking into our yum cha when into the restaurant came a lion dance, which circled around us and the other tables — it was fabulous and fun and really made our day. After our yum cha we went down into Little Bourke St (the heart of Chinatown in Melbourne) to join the celebrations.
Other years I’ve headed over to Richmond to join in the Vietnamese New Year celebrations. I’ve taught a lot of Vietnamese people over the years and it’s wonderful to be able to join in the celebrations there, often bumping into former students.
Customs and traditions vary widely — most people prepare by thoroughly cleaning their house, getting rid of old or worn-out clothing — and buying new clothes to put on in the new year. Some people decorate their homes with all sorts of red ornaments — paper cutouts, hanging ornaments — red is considered a lucky color. Many families gather for a big family dinner on New Year’s Eve. One thing that I love about the “lucky” food served at New Year is that often the “luck” is because of the names, which sound like desirable things like money or health. Food as a pun — I love it.
Fire crackers are set off, and gifts of money, real or imitation is given in red envelopes. The imitation money is burned to send good fortune to the ancestor spirits. It’s all in the hope of bringing good luck, wealth, and longevity.
There are too many different ways of celebrating the lunar new year to cover here, but google them and be delighted.
Celebrations generally last for 10 days or more and are immediately followed by the gorgeous lantern festival, which is one of my favorites. Happy new lunar year to you all.
Are there Lunar New Year celebrations where you are?