Hong Kong Chamber: A Letter from Canberra (Mar 2016)

It’s not often you look out a window of Parliament House in Canberra and see a traditional colourful lion dancing across the forecourts.

But that’s exactly the view our nation’s parliamentarians were treated to last month, as Australia’s capital kicked off its Lunar New Year celebrations with gusto.

For many parts of the world, Lunar New Year celebrations mean huge festivals full of colour, music, dancing and eating. 

This year, as always, Canberra was no exception.

Some of Canberra’s best Chinese restaurants held special banquets. The National Library treated families to lantern making, kite flying, puppetry and cultural displays to celebrate the Celestial Empire exhibition showcasing China’s last imperial dynasty. Our new Beijing Garden was lit up with lanterns from across the community, while the Multicultural Festival saw performances ranging from poetry and dance to traditional music.

The Lunar New Year celebrations brought about 255,000 tourists from China to Australia this year. The number of tourists who visit for the occasion grows every year – and so too does the scale of the celebrations.

But of course, there’s also a quiet side to the occasion. The beginning of the new lunar year is an opportunity for reflection on the year passed. Among the wishing for luck, prosperity and good fortunes in the year ahead, it’s a moment to pause and recognise all that one is thankful for in life.

To many, the celebrations are a time to share a meal with family and remember those no longer able to join them. Some Canberrans use the period to show gratitude and respect for their ancestors with offerings of fruit, flowers, candles and incense.

It’s a reminder that renewal comes in many forms.

Renewal is neither a positive nor a negative process – it is simply a natural one. And as the political new year picks up a head of steam here in Canberra, with a federal election looming on the horizon, it’s natural that renewal be on people’s minds.

But part of the joy of the Lunar New Year celebrations is putting politics to one side, and letting Members and Senators of all stripes come together and smile as a traditional Chinese lion dances across the Parliamentary forecourts.

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