ACT News

Year of the Monkey: The capital celebrates the 2016 Lunar New Year

Lunar new year is a time of renewal, marked by huge festivals and celebrations for the millions of people around the world who mark the annual transition.

Events are more low key in Canberra, and come from even more humble beginnings.

Admiring the Mai flower, which is said to be lucky, at the Sakyamuni Buddhist Centre are, from left, Peter Zhao,13, Hong ...
Admiring the Mai flower, which is said to be lucky, at the Sakyamuni Buddhist Centre are, from left, Peter Zhao,13, Hong Pham, Phuong Phan, Cindy Zhao,12 and Jade Tong,11, all of Monash.  Photo: Melissa Adams

When Sakyamuni Buddhist Centre founder Quang Ba Thich arrived in Canberra more than 30 years ago, the lunar new year celebration was a small crowd of 100 people, all squeezed into a "temple", at the time a rented house.

Now, depending on the weather and day of the week, Most Venerable Thich expects more than 1000 people to come to celebrate at the Lyneham Buddhist centre.

Cooking for the celebrations is Ngoc Anh Tran.
Cooking for the celebrations is Ngoc Anh Tran.  Photo: Melissa Adams

Wishing for luck, prosperity and good fortune, and warding off evil spirits are central to various cultural celebrations around lunar new year, including Chinese new year.

Most Venerable Thich says lunar new year is also a time of renewal, planning for the year ahead, and of celebrating with family and food.

It is common for Vietnamese people to set up an altar at home where they place fruit, water, flowers, candles andĀ incense in front of a name plaque of their ancestors.

Family is central to the celebrations, a time to show respect and gratitude to one's ancestors, Most Venerable Thich said.

Enjoying the lunar new year celebrations at the Sakyamuni Buddhist Centre in Lyneham  is Quang Ba.
Enjoying the lunar new year celebrations at the Sakyamuni Buddhist Centre in Lyneham is Quang Ba. Photo: Melissa Adams

"Without a family clan tradition, people lost the way. Young people may enjoy the wider contact to friend but no friend can helpĀ  you when you are in down times, only family.

"Family is very important but to hold the family tradition, you really need to have a focus point and focus moment to come together, and particularly in lunar new year."

2016 is the Year of the Monkey, which is Most Venerable Thich's own year, an occasion he treats with some caution.

"People can say many things but I don't necessarily take their word as truth," he said about what the Year of the Monkey meant for him. "People are very creative, they can make things up, they make everything seem good."

Lyneham's Sakyamuni Buddhist Centre hosted a vegetarian meal on Sunday night, with a stall nestled among plants and flowers and Buddha statues.

One helper manned the deep fryer, cooking spring rolls in batches, as people took places at long banquet tables to eat noodle soup, salad and fruit.

There were two lion dances planned at the temple for 9pm and midnight. The temple will also host a service on Monday, the first day of the lunar new year.