HomeArticlesArts & CultureLunar New Year: Out with the Rat and in with the Ox
Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year: Out with the Rat and in with the Ox

Maggie Gray | February 2021

After a turbulent 2020, it’s time to farewell the ratty year that was, and welcome the forthcoming Year of the Ox.

Every year, over a billion people celebrate Lunar New Year – the most important holiday in Chinese culture. This year, events across the globe are being scaled down due to the current Covid-climate, with many Facetiming family and friends instead of flying for a visit.

Despite this, family traditions, customs and delicious dinners will forge ahead with as much enthusiasm as ever, with locals across the Gold Coast celebrating the Year of the Ox in their own special way.

We spoke to four Chinese-Gold Coast locals to talk tales of backyard firecrackers, lifechanging homemade dumplings and the importance of this year’s Zodiac.


Dr. Shumei Hou

Surfers Paradise local
Chinese origin: Henan Province

Owner and Managing Director of Tamborine Mountain Distillery

What does Chinese New Year symbolise to you?
Chinese New Year is so important to me. It is the most important time of the year to get together with family members and friends.

How will your family celebrate Chinese New Year in 2021?
Unfortunately, this year, the Covid-19 Pandemic has prevented me, my sister and her son, who live in Brisbane, from travelling back to China for Chinese New Year. Instead, I will celebrate with my sister on the Gold Coast. My sister and I will try to follow my mum’s recipe to make dumplings. We will of course make WeChat video calls to my parents to say Happy New Year. My 3-year-old granddaughter, Emily, who lives in China with her Mum and Dad, will send me warm smiles and kisses.

What does Year of the Ox mean to you?
The symbol of the Ox symbolises strength and invokes the arrival of springtime in agriculture.  In the Chinese tradition, people throw stone figurines of the Ox into rivers to prevent the collapse of the dykes. The strength of the Ox was needed to plough the fields for the growing of crops. In this year of exceptional struggle, the Ox is especially symbolic.

“In this year of exceptional struggle, the Ox is especially symbolic.” 

Dr Shumei Hou, Tamborine Mountain Distillery

What’s your favourite meal to have on Chinese New Year?
My favourite meal on the Chinese New Year is of course homemade dumplings, especially my mother’s dumplings. This meal takes me back to my childhood and my hometown and of course all those fond memories of the Chinese New Year. I still think that she makes the best dumplings in the world!

How does the Gold Coast Chinese community come together to celebrate Chinese New Year?
The Gold Coast Chinese Dancing Group have a number of venues where they perform traditional Chinese dances to celebrate the Chinese New Year in Southport. Also, the Tai-Chi Group will demonstrate Tai-Chi in Southport. The Gold Coast Asian Federation will also get together to sing Chinese songs. Gold Coast Chinatown will also host some smaller Lunar New Year celebrations.

Chef Song Yao Su 

Arundel local
Chinese origin: Guangdong

Executive Chef of Asian Cuisine, The Star Entertainment Group

How will your family celebrate Chinese New Year in 2021?
I’m excited to spend quality time with family and cook some special Lunar New Year dishes for us to share. My favourite is steamed fish with joy oysters.

What does Chinese New Year symbolise to you?
Similar to the Western New Year, it’s an opportunity to welcome and invite luck for the coming year.

What does Year of the Ox mean to you?
Ox are hard-working animals and the Year of the Ox is traditionally auspicious for water and metal industries. This year I pray that everyone has better health and for the pandemic to come to an end.

Which Chinese New Year traditions will you be taking part in?
I will be celebrating at home, and locally in restaurants, with friends and family. The best part about Lunar New Year is cooking delicious feasts for everyone to enjoy and I now enjoy incorporating Australian traditions into our celebrations, such as enjoying a barbecue in the park.

How does the Gold Coast Chinese community come together to celebrate Chinese New Year?
With many unable to travel overseas for Lunar New Year this year, it’s important family and friends spend quality time together here in Australia. I enjoy bringing people together and providing an authentic experience so am looking forward to welcoming locals to share in our special Lunar New Year menu at Imperial at The Star.

What’s your favourite meal to have on Chinese New Year?
My favourite meal is the braised abalone with fish maw and dried oyster. This meal symbolises abundance for the year ahead.

 

Coson Liang

Broadbeach local
Chinese origin: Zhuhai, Guangdong Province

Owner of King Palace Kitchen

How will your family celebrate Chinese New Year in 2021?
We enjoy the banquet style dining at our restaurant, it is a busy week for us, but we always find time to celebrate!

What does Chinese New Year symbolise to you?
It is essentially the day we celebrate the New Year, a chance to get the family together to enjoy good food and celebrate good fortune.

“After last year, which was a difficult year for hospitality, we can all use some of the strength of the Ox!” 

Coson Liang, King Palace Kitchen

What does Year of the Ox mean to you?
The Ox is strength, power and good work ethic. After last year, which was a difficult year for hospitality, we can all use some of the strength of the Ox!

Which Chinese New Year traditions will you be taking part in?
Eating and partying with loved ones, we hope next year to bring back our dancing Lion!

How does the Gold Coast Chinese community come together to celebrate Chinese New Year?
We love to eat! We are looking forward to seeing many of our valued guests that enjoy celebrating at King Palace this Chinese New Year.

What’s your favourite meal to have on Chinese New Year?
For Chinese New Year, our chefs will make the traditional dumplings and sticky rice New Year’s cakes, which everyone enjoys. The cakes are symbolic of progression, that every year we grow higher and better in our life skills.

What is your favourite thing about Chinese New Year?
Seeing everybody happy and celebrating and of course the fire crackers!

Paris Chen

Coomera local
Chinese origin: My Grandpa is from Sichuan, but I lived in Zhuhai – A city close to Macau. The weather in Zhuhai is very similar to that of the Gold Coast.

Master’s Student 

How will your family celebrate Chinese New Year in 2021?
2020 is a very difficult year. I haven’t seen my family for a long time. We still cannot celebrate Chinese New Year with them in 2021. This is a sad thing, but I still have hope for 2021. Although I am not in China, my family will still get together and enjoy a sumptuous dinner. I think I will call them and celebrate the New Year with them.

What does Chinese New Year symbolise to you?
New Year is a pleasant holiday. This is an impression left from my childhood. When I was young, I could receive New Year’s money, gifts, and set off firecrackers. It is also an opportunity to reunite with distant family members. It feels like Christmas in Australia.

For me, the New Year means that everything in the previous year is over. A new future is beginning. This also applies to 2021. I hope that Covid-19 will pass and everyone will be healthy and safe in the New Year.

What does Year of the Ox mean to you?
In Chinese, “niu” (Ox) also means “strong ability”. Many idioms about cows have positive meanings. So, for me personally, I also hope that I can have a very “niu” year.

Which Chinese New Year traditions will you be taking part in?
A hearty dinner is definitely indispensable. My friend and I also bought a lot of New Year’s decorations for home. Making dumplings is also an activity I am considering. These will make us in Australia feel more Chinese New Year atmosphere.

How does the Gold Coast Chinese community come together to celebrate Chinese New Year?
The Chinese community living on the Gold Coast gather together every Chinese New Year. They have even prepared some performances for the New Year, and have been rehearsing recently.

What’s your favourite meal to have on Chinese New Year?
Must be spicy chicken. It is a special way of cooking in my hometown. This is a recipe handed down from my grandma. It best represents the taste of my hometown.

What is your favourite thing about Chinese New Year?
There is an old Chinese saying that “民以食为天”which means food is the most important thing to people. We are a nation that cares about food.

The Lunar New Year date varies each year from late January to late February, with the celebration falling on the first new moon of the new year. This year Lunar New Year will commence on Friday February 12, and run for 15 days until February 26.

The holiday is traditionally celebrated by people from Chinese, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, Malaysian, Singaporean and Indonesian backgrounds.

To check out how the City is celebrating Lunar New Year this year, click here.

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