Dear TIRF Colleagues and Friends,

Although the New Year celebration in most parts of the world is over after New Year’s Day, January 1, here in Macau, PRC, the real celebration was just over. The Chinese Lunar New Years, also known as the Spring Festival or Chinese New Year, is the most traditional holiday in China. It is celebrated based on the lunar calendar, so it typically falls between late January and mid-February.

The festivities surrounding the Chinese Lunar New Year last about two weeks and are marked by various customs, traditions, and activities. It starts with families gathering together for a reunion dinner on the eve of Chinese New Year. It is considered the most important meal of the year, where multiple generations enjoy a festive feast with one another. Red is the dominate color during the Lunar New Year celebrations. Houses and streets are adorned with red lanterns, couplets (red decorative strips with auspicious phrases), and other red decorations symbolizing good luck and prosperity.

One of the distinctive features is the fireworks and firecrackers, which are believed to ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune. The loud noises and bright lights are meant to create a lively and festive atmosphere. Due to safety reasons, usually there are designated places for families to bring children to have a blast. In many places, lion and dragon dances are performed in the streets or plazas during the celebrations. Dancers dressed as lions and dragons move in a synchronized manner to the beat of drums and cymbals. This tradition is believed to bring good luck and chase away evil spirits.

During the New Year period, people visit their relatives and friends to exchange greetings and well-wishes. This tradition is called “Bai Nian” and is an opportunity to strengthen family and social ties. People usually carry red envelopes, known as “Hong Bao” in Mandarin, with them to share as monetary gifts given unmarried adults, door men, service people, and those who are appreciated. The amount of money in the envelope is usually an even number as a gesture of good luck and blessings. Depending on their religious beliefs, many people visit temples during the Lunar New Year to pray for good fortune and blessings for the coming year. Temples are adorned with colorful decorations, and people burn incense and make offerings to the deities.

The end of Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations is marked by the Lantern Festival, which falls on the 15th days of the lunar calendar. It is customary to release sky lanterns into the air. The Lantern Festival is a joyful celebration and marks the beginning of a new year.

These traditions and celebrations vary across different regions of China, but they all share the common goal of welcoming the new year with joy, prosperity, and good fortune. In Macau, for instance, one unique feature of the Lunar New Year celebration is the International Parade. Macau is known for its vibrant and diverse cultural scene, and during the Lunar New Year, the city hosts an international parade that showcases various traditional performances and cultural displays, including local Macanese, Chinese, Portuguese, and international groups. The parade features colorful floats, traditional music, dance performances, acrobatics, and martial arts demonstrations.

Spending the Chinese Lunar New Year in Macau this year gave me a great opportunity to witness the multiculturalism and diversity of Macau’s society. It added an extra layer of excitement to the traditional Chinese New Year festivities I used to experience before I went to the United States three decades ago. It is truly exciting to see locals and record-high tourists come together to celebrate the new year and experience the unique cultural heritage of Macau. I wish one year down the road, I could invite all my TIRF Board colleagues and TIRF supporters and friends to come to Macau during the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday to experience the excitement with me.

This time of the year allows for moments of reflection on the many joys I experience in my life, including my opportunity to work alongside so many amazing colleagues and friends, here in Macau and around the world. I wish to express my appreciation for the many TIRF supporters worldwide, our donors, our grantees, and my TIRF Board colleagues. It is a true honor to be part of a field and an organization that has given me so much and that I continue to enjoy supporting.

I look forward to seeing many of you in Tampa next month. May the Year of the Dragon be filled with diligence, accomplishments, and good health for all of us!

Kind regards,

Jun Liu, PhD

President, TIRF