Keeping Chinese New Year Traditions Alive in Australia

Melbourne. Chinese New Year is an important time for families to honour their ancestors and welcome the  new year with food and festivities.

However, with the surge of Omicron and uncertainty around travel borders in Australia, many young Indonesians will choose to celebrate the occasion away from family.  

According to Vice Director of Media and Marketing at the Melbourne University Indonesian Student Association Nadya Aurelia, many Indonesian students are staying in Australia for the new year even though the borders are now open. 

“They are no longer celebrating Chinese New Year with their families like they usually would,” Nadya said.

“A lot of Indonesians will be celebrating Chinese New Year with their friends and probably from the comfort of their homes considering the high number of [Covid] cases right now.” 

For Nadya, Chinese New Year traditionally means a week of celebrations, visiting relatives, praying to ancestors and receiving red envelopes for good luck but instead she will spend the date with friends eating Chinese food in Melbourne. 

“Melbourne is a melting pot of cultures and there's a lot of people from different backgrounds from different countries who also celebrate Chinese New Year and they also do it differently to how we do it in Indonesia so that's always fun because there is a mix of everything here”. 

Major cities in Australia including Melbourne, Sydney and Perth will host a range of festivities on the 1st of February to mark the Year of the Tiger. 

Nadya has previously experienced  Chinese New Year in Melbourne and said the occasion was “actually pretty festive.”

The City of Melbourne embraces the tradition with dragon dances, fireworks, street food and live music.

“I am also glad that I can celebrate with my friends and it is something different than what we would usually do in recent years which is always exciting.”

RMIT University graduate, Gabriela Sumampow moved from Jakarta to Australia in 2018 and like Nadya will celebrate Chinese New Year in Australia away from her family. 

I'm not going home which is a sad thing but what I am doing for this Chinese New Year is  seeing friends in my social circle because I joined the Indonesian Students Association so I have a lot of friends from home,” Gabriela said.  

For Gabriela the biggest change is “ the absence of family” but with friends who she describes as her “second family” will keep the “traditions alive”.

“I see festivals and lanterns around [Melbourne], I’m glad that the government and the city itself is making it a lot more accessible for us to do that, so it means we're not just limited to sitting around in our house, getting Chinese food and just eating.”

“Simply put it's just the people who are different but even the people around you have a big impact.”

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