Lunar New Year 2024

Lunar New Year is significant to many migrant and migratised members of our Network, and we wanted to spotlight their stories and reflections on this important celebration.

Reflections by Simon, MRN Migrants’ Aspirations Programme Coordinator

Lunar New Year (LNY) used to be commonly referred to as “Chinese New Year”, but the name Lunar New Year is obviously more inclusive, since many who are not Chinese will celebrate this occasion. Lunar New Year is something that unites many of us across the East and South East Asian (ESEA) community.

Lunar New Year is perhaps our most important festival in Hong Kong, and a key part of our heritage. It is a values driven celebration, symbolising unity, family and love. The actions of those in power directly violate the ethos of compassion of this celebration. This celebration, and our heritage as a whole, can guide us towards social justice and can unify us across struggles and continents. 

Reflections by a Chinese international student

LNY is one of the most important festivals for me as a Chinese international student. I have fond memories of this warm festival from when I was in China. We would gather with our friends and relatives to celebrate. Since I arrived in the UK for my studies, I have attended a LNY party organised by a friend, and there were lots of international students there who attended from ESEA backgrounds. However, it was only a small gathering, and much smaller than the gatherings I am used to in China, so it sadly did not feel much like LNY to me. 

Our university sends us LNY wishes, but LNY is not treated as an official holiday like Christmas is. The atmosphere of celebration is not the same here, because only a minority celebrate LNY, whereas in China, it is the majority, and you can feel the celebratory atmosphere everywhere. 

A LNY tradition I observe is tying a spring couplet on the front of my door, which can be left up for the entire year. I have some friends who told me that in their apartment building, there are many people who celebrate LNY, and so lots of people wanted to put spring couplets on their apartment doors. Upsettingly, their landlord said the spring couplet goes against “safety regulations”, and so he would only allow them to hang it on their door for a week. Some of my neighbours have previously asked me what the spring couplet was, and after I explained it is a LNY custom, they sounded so relieved.

It upset me that people misunderstand our culture, and assume that our celebrations have a bad meaning behind them. As a festival, LNY has a long history of social justice symbolism. But social justice also takes on a new dimension here. My personal experiences navigating the way this celebration has been received in the UK have shown how Global South customs, cultures and celebrations are often demonised or misunderstood as part of a larger pattern of anti-immigration sentiment. 

LNY symbolises renewal, regeneration and hope for the future. I hope that this celebration can be embraced by UK society, in the spirit of inclusion. It is a really significant celebration for myself and so many other people, and it deserves to be treated right.

For everyone celebrating, may the Year of the Dragon bring you good fortune, happiness, and prosperity.

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