Celebrating the Lunar New Year

Sunday the 22nd of January marks the start of the Lunar New Year for many people across the world. Whether it’s Chinese Chunjie, Vietnamese Tết or Korean Seollal (and this is by no means an exhaustive list), it’s a time for people to come together, connect with family and welcome in the New Year with hope.

Different countries have different traditions in how they celebrate the Lunar New Year; in different parts of the world the celebrations can fall in completely different months. Perhaps the most famous of celebrations is the Chinese New Year, which this year will be celebrating the Year of the Rabbit. In Vietnam, this year will be the Year of the Cat.

The Lunar New Year that starts today is a festival of many traditions which is spread over many days, marking the beginning of a new year. It’s a time to cleanse the negative and bring in a fresh start. Many people will prepare by cleaning their homes to remove any bad luck from the previous year. Younger people in the family will receive money in a red envelope or silk bag (depending on where they are celebrating) to wish them luck and fortune. It’s a festival of bright, bold colours and lights.

“Moreover,” according to Rong from the South Gloucestershire Chinese Association, “it is a family reunion occasion. Younger generations normally going back home to visit their parents.” It’s a time for families to gather, and in many countries where it is celebrated, roads are often full of people travelling home to be with their family over the Lunar New Year.

There are lots of celebrations going on across our region to bring in the Lunar New Year. In central Bristol, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery are hosting a weekend of celebrations across the weekend of the 28-29, including traditional dances, craft and martial arts demonstrations. It will be a chance to learn more about Chinese and Korean culture. Chinese supermarket Wai Yee Hong are putting on celebrations at their site, with a delicious food market, dance performances and crafts. On Sunday the 5th of February, there will be a Chinese New Year Party in Filton, with music, community dance performances and a Chinese meal from Wong’s restaurant.

Joe from the Chinese Community Wellbeing Society, who are supporting the celebrations at Bristol Museum, spoke to us the importance of celebrating. “Generally, it is a period to promote happiness and prosperity for the forthcoming year and people do not talk about anything which could bring bad fortune such as loss, breakup or breaking things, death or hate type topics. These are quite taboo topics to discuss during our new year period which are not normally welcomed.”

At SARI, we wish everyone celebrating a very Happy New Year. We want to use this opportunity to wish people luck and prosperity in the coming year, and also to highlight our service to people who may need to use it. Unfortunately, there has been a rise in reported hate crime against East and Southeast Asian communities, with End Violence and Racism against East and Southeast Asian Communities reporting a 50% rise from 2018 to 2020. There is no place for this hate in our communities, and we want to encourage anyone who experiences it in Avon and Somerset to report it to our charity.