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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 02 Hansard (Wednesday, 21 February 2018) . . Page.. 564 ..

Lunar new year

MS LEE (Kurrajong) (6.45): Over the last few weeks we have seen many communities in Canberra celebrate lunar new year. I was delighted to be able to share these celebrations with the Canberra Chinese community at a fantastic event hosted by Leader of the Opposition, Alistair Coe, at our very own Assembly, and to celebrate with the Canberra Vietnamese community along with deputy leader, Nicole Lawder, at the Van Hahn Monastery in Lyneham.

In the Korean culture the celebrations are no less jubilant, but I take this opportunity to highlight some of the unique ways in which the Korean community celebrates lunar new year. In Korea the lunar new year, seollal, is a time of great excitement for everyone but particularly for young children. It is a time to pay respect to our ancestors and elders, with the bonus being that children who take part in the traditional bow of respect to elders will walk away with a packet of money. Seollal celebrations are usually held over a three-day period, and this year it was a delight to have seollal coincide with the Multicultural Festival in Canberra.

Having lived in Australia since 1986 my family and I have made every effort to immerse ourselves in Australian culture whilst never forgetting our Korean traditions. And so it comes as no surprise that over the past 30-plus years seollal celebrations for the Lee family have seen a delightful mix and match clash of two cultures. The traditional breakfast to ring in the new year in Korea is tteokguk, which literally translates into rice cake soup. I know it does not sound all that appetising, but this dish, some 30-plus years after my leaving Korea, is still something that resonates with me as a fresh start, a new beginning.

Given the changing date of seollal according to the western calendar, my family and I have taken to going to the effort of eating tteokguk on 1 January, and not just as a hangover cure from the New Year’s Eve celebrations the night before. Now I am a little old to be receiving packets of money after paying respect to my elders with a bowing ceremony, but my partner, who is new to the Korean culture, did get to see firsthand what this custom is all about when my little cousins paid respect to my parents on their visit to Australia on 1 January. And, yes, my parents were a little poorer but definitely happier as a result. There are also, of course, traditional Korean games, great colourful traditional dress and, not to be outdone, lots and lots of Korean food.

Seollal is, however, most importantly, a time for family. And it is customary for children—even adult children—to make the trek to their home town to pay respect to their parents and grandparents. My parents do not live in a village in the countryside of Korea and, unfortunately, I no longer have any living grandparents, but it was my parents—Papa Lee and Mama Lee—along with my younger sisters who made the trek from their home in western Sydney to Canberra. It was a day late perhaps, and it was only for a few hours, but we did manage to get together as a family to mark seollal. It was a particular delight to have this celebration happen at the Multicultural Festival where we were able to join thousands of Canberrans also celebrating the year of the dog.

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