Should the City of Sydney change the name of its Chinese New Year Festival?
by Thang Ngo
Noodlies, Sydney food blog can’t understand why the City of Sydney persists on calling this celebration Chinese New Year Festival. Sure, it may have originated from China… many things do, but as they spread to other countries, customs and traditions change. Just because Australia has roots in Great Britain, it doesn’t mean our culture, language, customs, food etc can’t evolve.
Of the 12 Sydney councils holding festivities this year, only 4 refer to it as Chinese New Year – Willoughby, Kogarah, Rockdale and City of Sydney. The others refer to them as Lunar New Year probably to acknowledge that it’s also celebrated in other cultures including Vietnamese and Korean.
Today, I wrote an open letter to Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney expressing my disappointment and listing my arguments. The full text of my letter is at the end of this post, briefly my opposition to calling it a Chinese New Year Festival are:
- It’s divisive – at odds with Clover Moore’s principles of “tolerance and equity”
- Vietnamese and Korean residents make up a significant proportion of the City of Sydney’s constituents. Many are single students who should feel included and welcomed not excluded
- City of Sydney is in the minority in using Chinese New Year
- I believe the community Advisory committee for this Festival is not inclusive of other cultures who celebrate Lunar New Year
I’m confounded by this decision and am interested in a response from the City of Sydney.
I completely support celebrating diversity and Lunar New Year. But I want it to be an open and inclusive celebration.
What do you think?
Political correctness gone to far or should it be renamed to something more inclusive?
An open letter
Monday, 4 February 2013
The Right Honourable, The Lord Mayor of Sydney
City of Sydney
via email: [email protected]
NAMING: CHINESE NEW YEAR FESTIVAL
Dear Lord Mayor,
Your record has been one of social justice and inclusiveness. You have taken a stance on issues which you feel are important for your community regardless of public opinion – sustainability, bike paths, GLBTI issues and many more. Your Mayoral bio boasts “Clover’s constituency is diverse and she champions tolerance and equity”. I applaud you for that.
I feel those laudable values are at odds with the naming of the City of Sydney’s Chinese New Year Festival. I know you are aware this major festival is celebrated by other communities, in particular Vietnamese and Korean communities.
The City of Sydney’s Chinese New Year Festival, as a name, is divisive because it excludes. Last year, at the official launch, speaker after speaker, encouraged us to celebrate Chinese New Year. Coming from a Vietnamese background, I was appalled and offended. Despite their speeches, I didn’t feel a part of the festival.
According to the latest Census, there are over 15,300 Chinese speaking residents in the City of Sydney and over 4,600 speak either Vietnamese or Korean. Many of these are students who live in the residential high-rises in the City. They often come here alone. A Lunar New Year celebration would have made them feel comforted and welcomed, calling it Chinese New Year excludes.
At a greater Sydney geographical level, again, while Chinese speakers out-number other language groups, Vietnamese and Korean speakers still comprise a significant part of the population. You are in the minority when it comes to the Greater Sydney area – the majority of other Councils have elected to name their community celebrations Lunar New Year.
The City of Sydney’s decision to call this celebration a Chinese celebration confounds me. I write to seek your response to the following questions:
- What is the rationale for naming it Chinese New Year Festival?
- I understand the festival takes advice from a 14 member Chinese New Year Festival Advisory Group. How many from the Group come from Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean or other backgrounds?
- This year’s featured city is Shenzhen – what was the level of financial and/or in-kind sponsorship offered to the City of Sydney from the Chinese government? Did it have any bearing on the exclusive naming of the festival?
I’m looking forward to your kind response.
PO Box 1181
Cabramatta NSW 2166
Yes! Thank you! For years, I thought I was the only one bugged by this. You’ve articulated this better than I ever could.
Some Chinese friends of a relative of mine were shocked when I talked about Lunar New Year. “But it’s Chinese New Year. You’re not Chinese…” I…just….flames. Flames on the side of my face. THAT is the power of a title. For those not in the know, the title misleads. Only the Chinese are mentioned, so it must be only Chinese that celebrate it, right?
Council says it is in honour of the first celebrations held by the Chinese community. So what? Lunar New Year had been going on for a long time before Australia first came into contact with it in Chinatown.
The sense of exclusion just really bugs me, especially when Lunar New Year celebrations are such a big part of my life and I’m made to feel as if I shouldn’t be celebrating it.
We do acknowledge that some other Asian countries are also celebrating Chinese New Year. However as mentioned above it was originated in China, and council has already got ur reply saying its a honour of the first celebration held by Chinese. Then show some respects to your ancestor, or at least people who invented this whole lunar new year thing. Therefore I believe there’s nothing wrong to call it Chinese New Year as it is now.