MELBOURNE NEWS

Culture and heritage

Good luck and prosperity in the Year of the Dragon

12 February 2024

Local icons share what Lunar New Year means to them and to the city as we go into the Year of the Dragon.

A new year. Treasured traditions. The incoming Year of the Dragon symbolises longevity, prosperity, wealth and happiness.

We’re celebrating the Year of the Dragon with epic Lunar New Year events that honour our city’s vibrant multicultural communities.

Read on to meet some of the local icons with plans to celebrate across the city.

Meet Mark Wang from the Chinese Museum

Taking part in the Millennium Dragon parade on Chinese Lunar New Year is thrilling for Mark Wang, the CEO of the Chinese Museum in Cohen Place.

It took 150 people to stage the 55-metre long dragon procession at the street festival in Chinatown on Sunday 11 February.

“It’s amazing to see so many people’s eyes light up when this massive dragon leaves the museum to parade around Chinatown.”

Dragon parade. Photo: Melbourne Chinatown Association

“For the diaspora, Chinese New Year is a way to retain heritage and reconnect with our culture.”

Mark’s family has called Victoria home for five generations, and lived in Melbourne for a century.

More than 20 per cent of city residents have Chinese ancestry.

Many can trace their local stories back to the gold rush, and we’ve welcomed many more since.

“We brought these traditions with us when we came here, and we carry on the traditions.”

Mark Wang at the Museum of Chinese Australian History

Meet Ying Hou from Shandong MaMa

It’s dumpling season for Ying Hou from Shandong MaMa.

She and her team are busy making enough dumplings to feed the city during this important cultural occasion.

“Many people wear red, eat dumplings,” Ying said.

“Dumplings have to be the last meal of the night, otherwise you didn’t celebrate Chinese New Year!”

“After a crazy day and night in the restaurant serving people, we will sit down to share a meal with staff and family. Everyone wants to toast Mama.”

Ying’s mother Meiyan Wang puts the ‘Mama’ in Shandong MaMa.

It’s Mama’s recipes from the Shandong peninsula that make this dumpling restaurant so iconic.

“Before my family migrated to Melbourne, Chinese New Year meant ‘reunion’ to me,” Ying said.

Ying Hou from Shandong MaMa

“As an international student living in Melbourne for high school and then university, I would travel back to China every year for Chinese New Year.”

“Now it’s different. Chinese New Year is about connection with the people I care about – many of our staff are not returning to their hometown so we look after each other.”

“Chinese New Year is like a reset button.”

Meet Elle Phan, international student alumni

The dragon is the only mythological creature in the zodiac, according to former international student Elle Phan.

“There’s a traditional Vietnamese story that says the carp is the original form of the dragon,” Elle said.

“It takes persistence, passion and a little bit of magic to become a dragon.”

“In the Year of the Dragon I hope we can get the power we need in our lives, and a little bit of magic.”

“I hope we can overcome challenges and move onto the new year with strength,” Elle said.

“Lunar New Year is a time to pay tribute to our ancestors.

“We cook traditional food and dishes that can remain in the family for generations. It also means new beginnings.”

A woman in traditional Vietnamese ao dai stands next to a mural of a lotus flower
International student alumni Elle Phan

“It is also a time to connect with the Vietnamese community,” Elle said.

She is organising a Lunar New Year event for international students, alumni and the Vietnamese diaspora on Thursday 15 February.

“It’s a great celebration. We can share our experience of being Vietnamese.

“We celebrate Tet with food, decorations, music, traditional ao dai costumes, lucky money and lucky envelopes, and zodiac readings that can give a prediction for the new year.”

Meet artist Chris Chun

Look for the garden of good fortune, imperial dragons and peonies in Chinatown during Lunar New Year, in a series of intricate posters designed by artist Chris Chun.

Known for his work in contemporary chinoiserie, Chris draws on his Chinese and Australian heritage, putting a modern twist on traditional Chinese art.

Detail from Year of the Dragon artwork by Chris Chun

“Lunar New Year is all about family and has always been an important part of my life. I have fond memories of eating these amazing banquets,” Chris said.

“We used to go to Chinatown when we were kids to see the dragon parade and have yum cha every Lunar New Year.”

“It also was a time of ‘getting rich’! Getting lots of red packets from family relatives, meant it was always a happy (and lucrative) occasion to look forward to.”

An artist in their studio
Artist Chris Chun in his studio

“For me now, it’s an opportunity to spend valuable time with loved ones: family and friends and celebrate the coming new year.

“It’s a real opportunity to acknowledge my cultural heritage too,” Chris said.

“I think the Chinese community and culture has always been an integral part of Melbourne’s rich multicultural history.”

“Celebrating diversity of culture makes a city great. And because Lunar New Year is celebrated in many different Asian cultures, this makes it even more special.”

Meet Clifford Qwah from Secret Kitchen

Looking to add prosperity to your new year, and dramatic flair to your new year’s feast?

Try the special dish at Secret Kitchen, according to co-owner Clifford Qwah.

The Prosperity Toss is an interactive salad that’s a must-have at Lunar New Year.

This raw fish salad with crispy wonton skin is best served while exchanging blessings for the new year.

It’s known as yu sheng in Mandarin and yee sang in Cantonese.

The Prosperity Toss salad at Secret Kitchen

“Everyone stands up at the table to toss the salad into the air together,” Clifford said.

The higher it goes, the more prosperous the year will be.

“It’s a way to welcome the good and chase away the bad, to make sure you have prosperity and good health.”

“Chinese New Year centres around removing the bad and the old, and welcoming the new and the good.”

“The reunion dinner is a very big thing in the Chinese New Year tradition – it’s when families and friends gather together on the night before the new year,” Clifford said.

“In these modern times, more families are coming to Secret Kitchen to celebrate with a luxurious banquet feast.”

Clifford Qwah at Secret Kitchen

“Everyone is looking forward to this new dragon year.

“the dragon is symbol of strength, courage, good fortune, and of course good health. I’m looking forward to that!”

“We hope it’s very auspicious and augurs well. Hopefully the global economy is looking positive as well.”

How does Melbourne celebrate Lunar New Year?

Join thousands of revellers to welcome the Year of the Dragon across Melbourne throughout February and beyond. To learn more, browse all the Lunar New Year events on What’s On Melbourne.

Chinese Lunar New Year performers. Photo: Melbourne Chinatown Association

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