When I was a kid, I celebrated the “Chinese New Year” in Malaysia with my family.
When we moved back to Australia seven years after living in Asia, to my confusion I learnt that the “Lunar New Year” is often used to refer to the “Chinese New Year” in Melbourne. Both phrases are used interchangeably literally everywhere here – on posters, flyers and billboards to name a few – time and time again.
Today, the Lunar New Year is widely celebrated in Australia each year.
Lion dances and Asian cultural performances on city streets are a common sight here in the weeks leading up to start of the brand new lunar calendar. Various profit/not-for-profit bodies and everyday people from all walks of life frequently and tirelessly pitch in to organise and partake in these festivities.
Giant golden snake and red lanterns. Oz departmental store Myer getting into the Lunar New Year spirit. Photo: Mabel Kwong
However, interestingly enough, the Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, holds contrasting meanings for different groups Down Under.
In such a globalised world, it’s common to find cultural festivals on show every now and then around us today. When ethnic festivals pop up in a Western city, words that spring to mind when we think about them include, ‘traditional customs’, ‘diverse cultures’ and ‘multicultural’.
But looking closely at cultural festivals, at times these culturally vibrant shindigs that often attract people of all walks of life in attendance do not wholly perpetuate the ideals of multiculturalism.
The JCAF 2012. Acoustic Japanese music performance by Shigeo Furukawa and Claire Jackson on stage. Photo by Sue Chen.
The gist of multiculturalism is about interacting and getting along harmoniously with our friends, colleagues and acquaintances of culturally diverse backgrounds and learning to respect the beliefs and customs of our fellow citizens no matter their religion.