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Published Friday 1 Mar 2024

Meet Shung and learn how he celebrates this important festival

The Chinese New Year or the Lunar New Year is one of the most important festivals celebrated in the Chinese calendar. The celebrations culminate with the colourful lantern festival.

There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac and 2024 is the year of the dragon. Dragon is a symbol of strength and power and is associated with good fortune.

There are many stories associated with the celebrations. One of the popular stories is about the monster Nian and how he was stopped short from feeding on the villagers and destroying their homes. Red papers on the door of the homes and the sound of firecrackers scared the monster and he left without harming anyone. This is why families decorate their homes in red and wear lovely red clothes throughout the Chinese New Year – to hope for prosperity in the new year and to ward off evil spirits.

Many of our staff celebrate this festival. We recently caught up with one of our colleagues, Shung Wang, the Regional Integration Team Lead in the office of the Regional WayFinder, Central Region.


What do you enjoy the most in your role?

People! Relationships!

My team provides secretariat support services to the Regional Integration Team and this team comprises of senior leaders across Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora (Health NZ) and Te Aka Whai Ora in the region. As part of this we are privileged to support and work with staff across Health NZ and Te Aka Whai Ora. The team is big and close knit and we are all working towards the same goal.

We are working on a few things including the Regional Health and Wellbeing Plan in the Central Region, with a focus on delivery and implementation on the national directives and incoming policy. I love working with a great team that is working on funding initiatives, health promotion and contract delivery


How did you end up working in healthcare?

I am a pharmacist by trade. My parents were academicians and encouraged me to study science. I was passionate about Chemistry and studying as a pharmacist allowed me to pursue chemistry and be in health care. I have worked in the hospital and community sectors. I started working in Gisborne before moving to Wellington. Early on, I was part of the genesis that started the pharmacy at Victoria University of Wellington. I then wanted to be in a space where I had a wider overview and influence so, moved to the central government space. I enjoy what I am doing, as I am able to use my experience and expertise of working in the community, pharmacy and central government.


What does the lunar new year (and the lantern festival) mean to you and how do you celebrate it?

As a multi ethnic country, we embrace, encourage, and appreciate other cultures.

For me it is about spending time with family. It is the most festive holiday for us with festivities spanning over two weeks. For context, it is our equivalent to Christmas and we feast and celebrate with our family. Red is a joyous colour and is associated with good fortune; we dress in red and give pretty red envelops to children and enjoy the fireworks. The red envelops have money and signifies good luck and fortune. For the Lantern Festival, we go and appreciate the beautiful lanterns. We have an aunty visiting us here; we are looking forward to spending time with her and going with her to the botanical gardens lantern festival.


How do you and your family celebrate the lunar new year in New Zealand? Are the celebrations similar in Taiwan?

For us, as immigrants, our cultures and festivals take on bigger meaning. For my extended family back home, it is a weeklong holiday full of celebrations and good food. For us here, it is also a lot about clinging on to our cultural roots as we try to pass on our tradition to the next generation.

As children, we would occasionally travel to Taiwan for the festivities. Now celebrating here, we decorate our homes and celebrate with our family.


What is the one thing that you would like a reader to take back after reading this article?

It is good to be mindful that it is not one but several ethnic groups across Asian countries that celebrate the Lunar New Year. If you get the chance, attend a celebration being organised in your area and if you see people who are dressed up in Red, go up and say a new year greeting to them. Most people will really appreciate that.

Some of the new year greetings is Gong Xi Fa Cai (Mandarin) or Kung Hei Fat Choi (Cantonese). (Trad Chinese: 恭喜發財; Simplified Chinese: 恭喜发财)