Happy Lunar New Year!
Celebrate with initiatives that bring its traditional wishes to life.
Often known as Chinese New Year, the Lunar New Year is in fact celebrated in regions outside of China. This year it takes place on February 5th, 2019, which begins a 15-day period of festivities in which families come together, share traditional meals, clean out their homes, and embark on a fresh, prosperous new year.
At the same time, many communities do not have the privilege of enjoying all of the positive wishes that come with this holiday. Below, we explore the traditions of the Lunar New Year and how local groups are making them a reality for people in need.
1. Sharing Traditional Food
The backbone of every Lunar New Year is families coming together to enjoy a reunion dinner with their loved ones. Among the traditional dishes that families share are steamed fish, dumplings, and longevity noodles.
But this holiday should not be the only time that families eat well. In China, an estimated 15 million rural children have no guaranteed source of protein despite dramatic improvements in living conditions over the past decade. A lack of adequate nutrition throughout the year impedes physical and mental development in children, making this a pressing concern for its civil sector.
The China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation operates a School Feeding Program with two distinct programs to improve conditions for vulnerable children in schools. One program supplements students’ diets with a carton of milk and an egg each school day, while the other furnishes a fully functional kitchen canteen so that children can enjoy a warm nutritious lunch.
Launched in 2008, the program has since benefited close to one million Chinese children from 14 rural provinces in China with nearly 51 million daily portions of supplementary dairy products, as well as built several standardized canteens in rural schools. Their work has been transformative in making Lunar New Year wishes a reality for children and families across China.
Help make a well-nourished new year a reality by donating to nonprofits that work in Asia’s health sector.
WATCH: CFPA programs have benefited more than one million children in China.
2. Honoring One’s Elders
The first day of the Lunar New Year is a time to honor one’s elders. Families often travel great distances to visit the oldest and most senior members of their extended families, celebrating the holiday with their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents.
This tradition holds pertinence in Taiwan, which officially became classified as an aging society in 1993. As of 2018, 14% of the population in Taiwan is above the age of 65. This presents a challenge in Taiwanese society, as less families are equipped to provide utmost care for the elderly. Hondao Senior Citizen’s Welfare Foundation in Taiwan seeks to not only honor the elderly during the Lunar New Year, but also strives to promote a better quality of life for them all year-round. They provide in-home elderly care services, daycare centers, counseling, hot meals, and senior citizen leisure activities. They also encourage family involvement in the provision of care through senior care services consultation for families, even operating an awards and recognition program for families living together.
Currently, Hondao Senior Citizen’s Welfare Foundation has 2,400 community care bases around Taiwan, among which 177 are directly operated and counseled by Hondao. Hondao has also honored a total of 1,152 model families to date. Their work stems from their value that “family ties are not burdens, instead, they are the foundation of strengths.”
WATCH: Hondao has more than 2,400 care bases to support elderly persons and their families in Taiwan.
3. Celebrating the Spring Harvest
The Lunar New Year is also known as the Spring Festival, as it marks the transition to a bountiful spring harvest. Japan no longer follows the lunar calendar but its 小正月 (Koshogatsu, or “Little New Year”) celebrations still share the ritual of praying for an ample harvest.
Even though Japan is seen as a food-secure nation because it is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, many vulnerable groups are unable to access the food they need on a regular basis. In fact, an estimated 3.5 million children in Japan are living in poverty. Over the past 30 years, Japan’s rate of poverty has risen to 16% of the total population.
As the national food bank for Japan, Second Harvest Japan helps to address this social issue by making food more accessible for those in need. Their Food Safety Net and Food Lifeline programs not only provide food to struggling low-income households, but they also educate students about food security in Japan. Through their programming with Give2Asia they have been able to provide food to approximately 50,000 people, with an overall goal to reach 100,000 unique users by 2020.
Help cultivate a prosperous new year by donating to nonprofits that work in Asia’s environmental sector.
WATCH: Second Harvest has helped feed over 50,000 through Give2Asia-funded programs.
4. Hopes for a Bright Future
Every new year brings with it new hope for the future. Refugees have various needs that are key to helping them reintegrate into their new life. One nonprofit, Dream Makers for North Korea Mulmangcho, aims to improve the quality of life for North Korean refugees by implementing a variety of support programs related to their education, counseling, and social welfare to support their adjustment to life in South Korea.
Over the past 7 years, Mulmangcho has established education programs for both children and adults in their Boarding School and Open School to support refugees through their adjustment. They also focus on helping students overcome the trauma of fleeing their home country. The Blossom Scholarship Program, for example, gives students an opportunity to learn English abroad and gain international life experience. The center’s choir is composed entirely of refugee women and has been instrumental in treating post-traumatic stress disorder, building self-esteem, and creating opportunities for these women to interact in supportive social settings.
Mulmangcho’s initiatives have been turning hopes for a fresh new year, and new life, into a reality for refugees in South Korea.
WATCH: Mulmangcho is creating new hope for North Korean refugees.