Celebrating Lunar New Year with our Vietnamese Seniors
At Spectrum, our commitment to fostering a sense of belonging extends to every community we serve. This week, we had the joyous opportunity to celebrate Lunar New Year with the seniors from our Vietnamese Social Support Group. Gathered together, we shared not only delicious food but also stories rich in cultural symbolism, weaving a tapestry of tradition and togetherness.
The participants in our Vietnamese Social Support Group – resilient individuals who have embarked on unique journeys to call Australia home – arrived resplendent in elegant and vibrantly coloured traditional dress. To commemorate this significant occasion, our Respite Cottage in Preston was decorated with paper lanterns (made by participants in our Italian seniors’ group), punnets of marigolds, and a stunning display of branches, adorned with silk flowers, ornamental birds, and red packets.
The display was brought in by Hanh, one of the group participants, who regaled us with stories about the customs and rituals of Lunar New Year, sharing the significance and symbolism of the various items on the branches.
One such tradition shared was the custom of giving red envelopes, known as “li xi,” filled with lucky money to bring prosperity and good fortune in the coming year. Hanh also shared that the red packets could also contain wishes – and proceeded to distribute red packets to some of the singles among the Spectrum staff, with a blessing that they may find love in the year ahead.
Hanh also provided a demonstration – with Tuyet, the eldest of the group – of how the younger people in the household would visit their elders first thing on Lunar New Year, to honour them, express gratitude, and wish good fortune for the year ahead. She spoke of how the elders would return the good wishes – along with a red packet containing money.
There was much laughter, and we could imagine the seniors reminiscing with joy about the excitement of discovering the treasures hidden within the red packets they received as children.
Central to our celebration was the delicious lunch, lovingly prepared by Van and her volunteer, Cûc. Among the dishes shared was bánh tét – a traditional New Year treat made from glutinous rice, mung beans and pork, rolled into a cylindrical cake and wrapped in banana leaf.
Following lunch, the seniors wrote wishes onto slips of paper which served as a tangible expression of their hopes and aspirations for the year ahead. Hanh read them aloud among the group, including one special wish for Daniel – our Group Services Facilitator – that he may find a partner in the coming year. Given he had already received a red packet with this wish, one can only wonder if he might find double happiness in 2024?
Amidst laughter and heartfelt conversations, we were reminded of the resilience and strength embodied by the Vietnamese seniors. Each gesture, each symbol held profound significance, serving as a poignant reminder of the deep-rooted cultural heritage they carry with them. Their unwavering commitment to preserving their cultural heritage serves as an inspiration to us all.
For the Spectrum staff present, our hearts were filled with gratitude for the opportunity to share in this special occasion. In their stories and traditions, we found not only a celebration of the past but also a beacon of hope for the future—a future where diversity is celebrated, and every individual is embraced for the richness they bring to our community.
With Lunar New Year approaching tomorrow, we extend our warmest wishes to all for a prosperous and joyous Lunar New Year. May the year ahead be filled with abundance, happiness, and moments of togetherness with loved ones, both old and new. Chúc Mừng Năm Mới! (Happy New Year!)