Chinese New Year 2021
On 12 February, hundreds of thousands of Australians across the country will join with many more across the world in celebrating the Lunar New Year and what we all hope will be a happy, healthy and prosperous year ahead. The year 2021 in the lunar calendar is the Year of the Ox. Oxen are known for their diligence, dependability, strength and determination—all traits that we aspire to in this parliament, I hope. Last year, we saw many celebrations cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic overseas, particularly those held in China, where COVID was already prevalent. Thankfully, in Australia we were able to still sneak in celebrations before our own lockdowns started. But this year the Lunar New Year will look very different in Australia due to the ongoing restrictions and COVID-safe practices that are now required. For example, Lunar New Year in Australia normally attracts some 1.5 million visitors to Sydney, making it the largest celebration outside of Asia. With our international borders closed to visitors, that won’t be the case in 2021. It is a reminder of the fact that many Australians have been unable to connect with family and friends from overseas for such a long period. We would usually expect to see many suburbs and business centres awash with the colour and festivities of the new year celebrations, with large crowds coming together to witness lion dances, fireworks and performances.
This year will be very different but I am pleased that so many communities are still finding ways to celebrate. In my own electorate, Willoughby City Council will be holding a series of COVID-safe events in Chatswood. During the festival, which will last from 3 to 28 February, Chatswood will be home to a comedy festival, a celebratory concert, an exhibition from an amazing Chinese Australian artist, and the transformation of Chatswood Mall into an Asian style market with stalls selling flowers, lucky bamboo, decorations and delicious new year delicacies. In Lane Cove, festivities to welcome the Year of the Ox will include children’s activities, a lion dance travelling the course of the Lane Cove Plaza, the new canopy project and live music.
I look forward to also marking the Lunar New Year, at a lunch I’m hosting, with the North Sydney Chinese Community Forum, which I established a year ago to bring together community leaders and local businesses. I’ll also be following that very ancient Chinese tradition of handing out red packets to constituents next week, although I should say that they won’t be containing cash, despite the tradition—because I expect that’s illegal—but I’m sure they’ll enjoy their chocolate coin!
It’s so good to see celebrations of a multicultural Australia continuing even in the world of a pandemic. It’s a poignant reminder of the incredible contribution that has been made to Australia by those who have migrated to our shores. It is also an important time to reconnect with family and friends, something that, perhaps, has never been more important. I want to wish all Australians celebrating the Lunar New Year a very prosperous 12 months ahead, and to my own constituents of Chinese heritage: Xin nian kuai le or Gung hei fat choy.