Things to do

Celebrating the Lunar New Year, Sydney style

How 4 high-profile Asian-Australians are set to celebrate Sydney Lunar Festival.

Pig in a blanket lantern

Sydney Lunar Festival has evolved from a small celebration in Chinatown 23 years ago to a massive showcase of culture and talent across Sydney each year. The event now attracts more than 1.4 million visitors.

Here 4 high-profile Asian-Australians share their backgrounds and what celebrating Lunar New Year in Sydney means to them.

Elaine Chia – Australian-Hong Kongese CEO at City Recital Hall

I was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Melbourne from the age of 4. Lunar New Year is such a fantastic time, everybody celebrates with you and it’s all about celebrating your heritage.

I love all the family events and performances the City of Sydney has to offer at Lunar New Year. I’m especially looking forward to seeing the spiral pig lantern at The Rocks, and I expect that pigs will pop up everywhere around the city.

Lunar New Year in a western country gives the celebrations a wider context and there are more experiences to be had. The dragon boat races and events across the city mean the celebrations are not just confined to Chinatown and it’s a really exciting and all-consuming time.

We all celebrate other cultures that observe Lunar New Year and that’s fantastic, especially when you find out the nuances of how different nationalities welcome the new year. It shows a greater respect for other cultures.

Listen to Elaine’s podcast.

Marina Go – Chinese-Australian businesswoman and chair of Wests Tigers

As a Chinese-Australian, Lunar New Year is a special time for me and my family. We all gather and head to Chinatown to celebrate the Sydney Lunar Festival. And it’s a special time for my father, who was born in China.

My father will want to see the lion dances and celebrations in Chinatown for sure, as they remind him of China. It’s an incredible tale, but he was sold by my grandfather in a game of mahjong when he was born.

Miraculously, my father managed to keep in contact with his siblings even though his new parents moved to Hong Kong and his real parents moved to Indonesia. So we have a very strong focus on family at Lunar New Year.

My father picks the restaurant in Chinatown, and this year we will likely head to Nine Dragons on Dixon Street.

Then we will probably head to the Lunar Lanterns exhibition – it’s always exceptional. And I love the fact that LED lion dancing will be happening at Circular Quay too – it will be a real crowd pleaser.

Sydney does Lunar New Year really well. I can’t wait!

Listen to Marina’s podcast.

Min Woo Bang – Korean-Australian artist

I have a Korean background and came to Australia in 1990, aged 19. I’m a landscape artist who focuses more on clouds using oil paint on canvas.

The Sydney Lunar Festival is a really big thing for the Korean community, we have family reunions where everyone gets together and we pay our respects to family and ancestors – ensuring a good start for the new year.

Every year, I go to the Lunar Lanterns exhibition to check out the sculptures and it’s really exciting – especially at night. All the sculptures are really fantastic – Sydney has one of the best artistic festivals at Lunar New Year.

The lantern festival in Korea is quite traditional but Sydney’s is quite modern – almost like contemporary art. It’s for everyone in Sydney because it’s so diverse. The Sydney Lunar Festival has a good name. It’s not only for locals but also for overseas visitors. It’s becoming more of an international festival.

Angela Foong – Australian-Malaysian fashion designer at High Tea With Mrs Woo

My background is Malaysian but I’m now Australian after having lived here for the past 30 years, since the age of 6. But we practice our culture throughout our everyday lives. My two older sisters and I founded the fashion label High Tea With Mrs Woo 18 years ago and it’s still going strong.

Celebrating Lunar New Year with your family is a pretty fabulous thing to do. I especially like the food that we eatlo hei is a raw fish salad tossed high into the air by each member of the family to generate prosperity.

But this year, I want to see the Lunar Lanterns and go to the night markets at The Rocks. The lanterns look so lovely at night. There are big, beautiful sculptures of zodiac animals and you really get to see their beauty lining the foreshore at Circular Quay.

Listen to Angela’s podcast.

Sydney Lunar Festival runs from 1 to 10 February across the city.

Published 1 February 2019