World Insights: Celebrating Chinese New Year, Asia Pacific nations hope for bullish Year of Ox

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, February 14, 2021
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BANGKOK, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- Although COVID-19 is still casting a shadow over the Chinese New Year, people across the Asia Pacific region are finding ways to celebrate the special occasion, hoping for a more prosperous Year of the Ox.

"It's really important to focus on something that brings good luck and fortune and all the positivity," British-born Chinese artist Chrissy Lau said about the Spring Festival in Sydney.

Commissioned to create a series of postage stamps for release by Australia Post this year, Lau used a traditional red and gold color scheme in her designs of three main stamps featuring the ox, accompanied by a series with all 12 zodiac animals.

"It's really good that people in Australia do celebrate Lunar New Year as a wider holiday now, not just the Chinese people," Lau said.

Australia Post General Manager Philatelic Michael Zsolt said he hoped the stamps could play a part in making the occasion brighter for those in Australia and abroad.

"Given the present unpredictable nature of gatherings and travel, we hope these beautifully-designed stamps will encourage people to continue the great tradition of gift-giving at this time," Zsolt said.

Also, Year of the Ox stamps were issued by post offices in countries like Japan, Singapore, Fiji and New Zealand, and also by the United Nations (UN) Postal Administration.

Thousands of kilometers away from Sydney, in the Thai capital Bangkok, vibrant red lanterns adorn the streets of Chinatown, but celebrations are subdued following a COVID-19 resurgence, which erupted in mid-December and made the country's total caseload more than quintuple in two months.

At the Chinatown on Yaowarat Road, things looked quite different from previous years -- events were canceled and moved online and bustling crowds of foreign tourists, typically seen in the place during this time of year, have disappeared.

Orawan Anantawongchai, who has been selling steamed sponge cake for 32 years in Chinatown, said last year was hard. "People are tightening their belts because of a bad economy," the seller said.

Sometimes Orawan just sat all day without any customer. Sales may be only 40 percent of what they were before the pandemic, said the 65-year-old woman.

Thailand's consumer spending during the Chinese New Year could drop by more than a fifth to 44.9 billion baht (1.5 billion U.S. dollars) from 2020 as the pandemic dampened consumption, according to the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce.

Speaking of her wish for the new year, Orawan said "to make more money and survive."

To boost consumption and tourism, which accounts for more than 15 percent of the gross domestic product of the Southeastern nation, the Thai government has for the first time added the Chinese New Year to Thailand's 2021 public holiday calendar.

"I'm so happy that the Spring Festival is a holiday this year. It's very rare," said 26-year-old Vannisa Keomany, scouting the Chinatown for new year decorations.

Following the Chinese New Year tradition, Vannisa wore "Chinese red," the color associated with luck and prosperity. "I hope the COVID-19 pandemic will end as soon as possible, wishing everyone a happy and prosperous New Year."

Colorful Chinese New Year elements also contributed to the festive atmosphere in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, as the Spring Festival is being embraced by more locals.

The city's largest department store David Jones, New Zealand's comprehensive department store chain Farmers, and the national chain supermarket Countdown and other businesses have decorated their storefronts with huge Chinese knots, paper-cuts, lucky characters, big red lanterns, and bilingual celebration posters.

"It's a time to come together and celebrate new beginnings, and all of the opportunities a new year brings," said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in her Chinese New Year greetings.

"No matter how you are welcoming the New Year, I wish you and your family all the very best for months ahead, and a happy, safe and prosperous Lunar New Year," she said. Enditem

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