Cultural customs can be hard to maintain as immigrants move to countries like Australia. As the child of Italian migrant parents, I've learned how easy it is to forget being frugal like our Depression-era grandparents; the regimes of fascist leaders can be forgotten by children born into democracy. It’s hard to teach heritage — the things that mattered to those who came before us.
But not so when it comes to the colourful festivities of Lunar New Year. For my partner, growing up in his father’s yum cha restaurants (including Sydney institution East Ocean), it was always about the food. He understood from a young age that every dish on a Chinese menu represented something special — noodles for a long life, lobster for the strength of the dragon, scallops for good fortune.
Our own children enjoy the benefits of this beautiful celebration (and not just in the form of too many cash-filled red envelopes that they seem to reap this time of year). Whether they’re dancing with lions down Sydney's Dixon Street or stuffing their little faces with abalone (that’s right, my kids eat abalone), they realise, even at a very young age that this celebration is about good fortune, new beginnings and, most importantly, a very special heritage.
It’s during this time of year that we can all look around our cities and see just how big each of the celebrating communities are, from Chinese to Malay to Indonesian and Vietnamese and beyond. Each group offers a nod to their country through food, art, music and dance. And they invite us all to take part.
Check out some our top picks to ring in the Year of the Dog.
Tet festival at Fairfield Showground
A three-day festival celebrating the Vietnamese Lunar New Year, with a pho eating contest, rides, fireworks, and cultural performances.
February 23-February 25, from 8am to 6pm. Tet festival at Fairfield Showground for more details.
Take a stroll around Circular Quay and explore the 12 signs of the Lunar zodiac, exclusively designed by Australian artists. Each lantern reaches around 13 metres tall and lights up the city.
February 16-25. See City of Sydney Lunar Lanterns for more details.
Dumplings in the Sky
Dumpling masters New Shanghai are taking their soupy treats to new heights with an all-you-can-eat dumpling pop-up at Sydney Tower Eye. Just to repeat, that’s as many dumplings as you can shove into your pie hole whilst taking in 360-degree views of the city.
February 12-24. See Sydney Tower Eye for more details.
Lantern Festival at Queen Victoria Market
The QVM’s third annual Lantern Festival (Run Xiao Jie) allows visitors to weave their way through a variety of Asian food stalls, take in cultural performances and jump into family-friendly activities.
March 3-4 (all day). See Queen Victoria Market for more details.
Crown Riverwalk dragons
Some of Australia’s most renowned street artists have been recruited to turn Melbourne’s iconic fire towers into fire-breathing dragons. They’ll be lighting up the skyline with real bursts of fire every hour from 8pm.
February 17-27. See City of Melbourne for more details.
Lion dance and live music at Crown Metropol
Lion dances, live musicians and kung fu practitioners will be dancing and weaving their way through the lobby and various restaurants at Crown Casino complex in Perth to mark the season.
February 16-25. See Crown Perth from times and locations.
Leqad image: Instagram - SydneyTowerSkyWalk