Buddhist Communities Around the World Mark the Lunar New Year
Buddhists across the globe have gathered to mark the Lunar New Year in recent days, from Hong Kong to Houston, and Sydney to Singapore, festivities and Buddhist rituals were observed and shared across Chinese, Korean, Tibetan, and Vietnamese communities, and more.
In China, celebrations were quieter than usual after the authorities extended a ban on fireworks to more than 400 cities across the country, including Beijing, in a bid to reduce chronic air pollution, although the initiative did little to dampen enthusiasm for other traditional practices and family and community gatherings.
“The traditional culture represents ancient people’s aspiration for a good life,” said 33-year-old Peng Lei, who brought his daughter to Beijing’s Ditan Park temple fair. “I want my daughter to see with her own eyes and get to know the root of our culture.” (XinhuaNet)
To welcome the year of the Earth Dog, Wanfo, a Buddhist temple in Shanghai, launched a charity program to receive children of migrant workers who continued to work in the city over the holiday period. “We have learned that most children of the migrant workers are left behind in their hometowns, and they wish to come and see Shanghai with their parents,” said the temple’s Master Hong Yi. (XinhuaNet)
Chinese communities around the world also welcomed the Year of the Dog with traditional bombast. In multicultural Singapore, the city state’s top Muslim leader Dr. Mohamed Fatris Bakaram offered a public Chinese New Year greeting on behalf of the Muslim community.
It gives me great pleasure to take this opportunity to wish the Chinese community in Singapore a happy and prosperous Lunar New Year. We are truly blessed with the gift of peace, prosperity and strong friendship bonds between people of all faith communities and ethnic groups in Singapore. (Today)
Acknowledging efforts by community leaders in Singapore to ensure a “state of good social cohesion and relations,” Dr. Fatris noted that an interfaith group of young Singaporeans had recently toured Buddhist, Christian, and Islamic places of worship as part of the United Nations’ World Interfaith Harmony Week.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple in Mississauga, Ontario, on 15 February to help welcome the Year of the Dog, participating in a Buddhist prayer service before briefly touring the Lunar New Year Fair being prepared on the temple’s lower floor, where he received a gift of Canada-themed Buddhist art.
Likewise in South Africa, the grounds of Nan Hua Buddhist Temple in the town of Bronkhorstspruit hosted throngs of visitors, marking the lunar year with firecrackers and traditional cultural displays. Inside the temple, people made candle offerings and received a brief history of Chinese culture and heritage. The country is home to the largest population of overseas Chinese in Africa.
Amid the annual festivities in New York City, devotees waited in long lines to enter the American Society of Buddhist Studies temple to make offerings of incense and fruit. In the basement, volunteers cooked and distributed vegetarian meals for the thousands of visitors. A Buddhist nun who has worked in the temple for nearly 10 years said preparations for celebration had taken three or four days. “We clean up the whole temple and finish it when we’re doing the Chinese New Year,” she said. (Daily News)
Similar crowds could be seen in Australian urban centers, with thousands flocking to the Nan Tien Temple in Berkeley, New South Wales, on Friday, to attend lunchtime cultural performances. The temple’s Ven. Miao You observed that “Venerable Master Hsing Yun has dedicated these words to welcome the Year of the Dog: ‘the legacy of loyalty and honor.’” (Illawarra Mercury)
The biggest Chinese New Year celebrations outside of Asia were held in central London, where tens of thousands lined the streets to enjoy cultural displays in Chinatown and nearby Trafalgar Square, including martial arts exhibitions, and traditional lion and dragon dances.
Celebrations for Losar, the traditional Tibetan New Year, which this year coincided with Chinese New Year, were also underway around the world.
In Dharamsala, northern India, Buddhist monks and officials of the Tibetan diaspora gathered at the main temple in McLeod Ganj, Tsuglagkhang, early on Friday morning to lead a prayer ceremony. The local Tibetan community also gathered to offer prayers and receive blessings.
Russian president Vladimir Putin offered a message of congratulations to his country’s Buddhists, published on the Kremlin website:
It is important that Russia’s Buddhist community is preserving carefully the invaluable ethic and spiritual heritage and self-identical traditions of its ancestors and that it pays relentless attention to the highly demanded educational and charity activities, cares for family values and the upbringing of younger generations, promotes inter-religious and inter-ethnic dialogue, as well as the consolidation of peace and concord in society. (TASS)
Russia is home to some 900,000 Buddhists, most of whom live in the federal republics of Kalmykia, Buryatia, and Tuva and are followers of the Vajrayana tradition.
Loga Yangchen, a Tibetan restaurant owner in Toronto, Canada, noted that making a Buddhist shrine to bless family members was as important aspect of Losar. “Every family will have a different altar and prepare different foods for Losar,” he explained. “The most important offering is the one from the heart.” (thestar.com)
His Holiness the Karmapa observed Losar in the United States for the first time, leading traditional rituals and practices in the shrine hall of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra in Woodstock, New York. In a New Year message he shared:
On this first day of the Tibetan Year of the Earth Dog, Losar Tashi Delek to everyone, especially my brothers and sisters in Tibet and members of the Tibetan and Himalayan communities outside Tibet.
Worldwide Chinese New Year celebrations welcome Year of the Dog (GB Times)
PHOTOS: Prime minister visits Mississauga for Chinese New Year celebrations (Mississauga.com)
London welcomes Year of the Dog at Chinese New Year (BBC)
Lunar New Year brings people to Chinatown for food, gifts and prayer (Daily News)
Putin congratulates Russian Buddhists on occasions of Lunar New Year (TASS)
‘Happy Chinese New Year’, says S’pore’s top Muslim leader in inaugural greetings (Today)
Nan Tien Temple in Berkeley celebrates the Chinese Lunar New Year (Illawarra Mercury)
Beijing comes to Africa for Chinese New Year (IOL)
Tibetans begin festivities to celebrate new year (The Tribune)
Chinese celebrate Year of the Dog (XinhuaNet)
No bang, no buck: What China has to give up for clean air this Lunar New Year (South China Morning Post)
The many sides — and dishes — of the Lunar New Year (thestar.com)
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