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Experiencing Lunar New Year in Sydney as a Chinese American

Feb 23, 2019 10:22:00 AM / by Guest Posts

CAPA Spring 2019 Diversity Advocates scholar Jeff Chan shows us how Lunar New Year is celebrated in Sydney. He tells us about the similarities and differences between the celebrations in Sydney and Boston (where he grew up), as well as what he enjoyed the most during this cultural festival. 

Lunar New Year is a celebration of the beginning of a new year based on the lunar calendar. Determined by the cycles of the moon, this date changes from year to year. Typically held in January or February, cities all across the world hold festivals and celebrations to help ring in the new year. Unlike the United States, Sydney celebrates the holiday for a week!

Between February 1st and 10th, art sculptures and installations of the 12 different Chinese zodiac animals were scattered around Circular Quay. As each animal has its own personality and unique characteristics, so did each sculpture. The modern, illuminated pig composed of LED strips was just as magical as the dueling, inflatable neon roosters. In addition to these visual masterpieces, Lunar New Year was a time to listen to the powerful drum and cymbal hits as lion dances scared away any bad spirits in the many restaurants and shops lining the streets of Haymarket and Chinatown.

Neon RoostersDueling rooster inflatable art installation in Circular Quay.

LED Pig
A pig composed of color-changing LED strips come together to illuminate the steps of the Sydney Opera House.

In the many different neighborhoods of Sydney, streets and malls were decorated with traditional items, both large and small. In the Rocks, alleys were illuminated with Chinese paper lanterns. In Westfield Sydney Shopping Center, the walkways glowed from the lucky money trees. As red is a sign of prosperity and good luck, the leaves of these trees represent the bringing of good fortune to everyone who passes by them on their shopping trip.

Rocks LanternsLong strings of Chinese lanterns calmly hang above the footpaths in the Rocks.

Westfield Tree
Lucky money trees are found all throughout Sydney’s numerous shopping centers, such as the Westfield Sydney Shopping Center.

I was also able to celebrate Lunar New Year in Sydney by trying all the best Australia has to offer at the night market at The Rocks and the local bakeries scattered throughout Chinatown. Offering their signature items, each eatery had some unique dishes. Some of my favorites included the cream puffs at Emperor’s Garden and the seafood Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake) at one of the food stalls.

OkonomiyakiOkonomiyaki is a savory, Japanese pancake that can be filled with vegetables, chicken, or seafood.

As a Chinese American growing up in Boston, I have only been able to see Lunar New Year celebrated a couple of days in Boston’s Chinatown. In Sydney, it was really great to see the entire city be involved in the festivities. Locals and tourists of different religions, races, and ethnicities all came together to celebrate a holiday that I have celebrated with just my family growing up!

Thanks, Jeff!

Spring 2019 DAP Scholars_Jeff Chan

Jeff Chan is a junior studying Operations & Information Management and Data Analytics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and is spending his Spring 2019 semester in Sydney, Australia. A dedicated student leader on campus and a supporter of inclusion, Jeff is excited to learn about the local communities of Sydney, the challenges they face, and how to be a respectful traveler. 

At CAPA, we seek to foster increased student diversity and to provide all participants with the opportunity to explore, challenge and redefine their identities in distinct ways. Launched in Spring 2017, the Diversity Advocates Program (DAP) is an extension of this philosophy and provides resources for advocates to pursue diversity initiatives of their own within their global cities.

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Topics: International Education, Sydney, Australia, Diversity Abroad