Lunar New Year began on January 22, and millions of people around the world have been celebrating the Year of the Rabbit, and the Year of the Cat in Vietnamese communities. We wanted to share what Lunar New Year means to some of the LOTE team – wishing everyone a safe and happy Lunar New Year.
Lunar New Year’s Eve takes place with a family celebration, usually a steamboat dinner or good food, also known as a reunion dinner. The evening also has the kids in new PJs as a tradition. Lunar New Year’s Day – Sunday 22 January 2023 this year – involves visiting relatives, from the oldest first, or in order of importance. Married couples give kids red envelopes with cash inside and mandarin oranges are exchanged with good wishes. Some head to Chinatown to celebrate too. Most people wear new clothes and auspicious colours like red, orange, yellow and pink while wearing black or other dark colours is avoided. Everyone makes a concerted effort not to break anything fragile, as this is bad luck and is frowned upon. Visiting relatives and friends involves copious snacking, with lots of goodies like bak kwa, pineapple tarts, love letters and many more! The Chinese zodiacs are also reviewed (primarily for fun) and just catching up with family/extended family and friends.
For me, Lunar New Year, or Tet in Vietnamese, is a day of celebrating with my family. We prepare for Tet by cleaning and decorating the house with “hoa mai” (a flower). I love watching my parents share the Tet traditions with their grandkids, and the elders give “lì xì” (red envelopes with money). Food brings us together, and we will share things like “thịt kho”, “bánh tét” and “mứt dừa”.
CNY is a festival of family love and good food for my family. On NYE, everyone gets together to catch up, cook and share food, and stay up till midnight to welcome the new year. On New Year’s Day, we have tangyuan (a dessert of sticky rice balls with sesame or peanut filling) for traditional breakfast, a symbol of family unity and the smoothness of the upcoming year. Then we visit the tombs of our ancestors. It’s a good practice of gratitude to honour deceased family members and consciously appreciate what we have.
After three years of spending Chinese New Year alone in Melbourne, 2023 is a year for me to celebrate. Every Chinese New Year, all families are busy trying to ensure their house is clean, everyone has a haircut, we have all the right snacks, and all the red packets are packed! This year I’m finally able to fly back to Hong Kong and celebrate the year of the rabbit with my family! The first day is when you meet with all your extended family members; for me, that’s 34 people! A pro tip from me is that if you’re not married, no matter how old you are, you can still receive red packets!!
The most special part of CNY celebration is the family dinner on NYE (chuxi); a table full of food symbolises good fortune for the coming year. The beginning of the New Year would be marked by setting off fireworks. Then on New Year’s Day, families visit each other and children receive red packet (hongbao) money from their elders, although the parents of younger children usually receive it in their place for ‘safe-keeping’. This CNY is the year of the rabbit, which is particularly special for me since I’m a year of the rabbit. However, being in your own zodiac year ‘benmingnian‘ is considered bad luck, so I would need to wear something red all year long to improve my fortune.