senators’ statements — Lunar New Year

February 17, 2021

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition)

Honourable senators, I rise today to mark the Year of the Ox, which officially began on Friday, February 12, as we celebrated Lunar New Year in Canada and around the world.

Sae-Hae bok-ma-nee bah-deux-sae yo in Korean; Shin-yen gwaii-leux in Mandarin, Gong-hay-fa-choy in Cantonese and Chúc Mùng Nãm Mói in Vietnamese. Lunar New Year is an important celebration for many Canadians of Asian descent and many who enjoy the traditions and festivities. In Korea, we refer to Lunar New Year as Sullal, a day where families gather to pay respects to the elders and reconnect with extended family. We enjoy a tasty bowl of dduk-gook, a traditional rice cake soup, play fun games like Yut-Nori with the entire family and give or receive — if you’re unmarried — white envelopes of crisp “lucky money” for the new year.

It is one of the most important holidays of the year. This year has been different for all families as we were not able to gather in person to enjoy the age-old traditions. However, this past Saturday, I co-hosted a special event with Member of Parliament Nelly Shin, members of the national Korean-Canadian community to celebrate the new year. There were special guest appearances by the Honourable Erin O’Toole and the Honourable Alice Wong, wonderful performances by the Canada Muse Youth Symphony Orchestra and soprano Angelina Park, and great prizes drawn from a wheel of names of all the participants in the virtual celebration.

MP Shin, others and I wore hanboks, our traditional Korean dress, though mine was a modern one that can be worn any day of the year. Various participants prepared their version of dduk-gook to enjoy during the event.

My mother’s dduk-gook, rice cake soup, is my absolute favourite, and having assisted her to make it year after year, I have her secret recipe committed to memory. The extensive preparation comprises so much love and care that goes into her soup and is something I have come to appreciate all the more, as she lost her ability to cook more than a decade ago. Earlier this year in her honour, I shared her secret recipe with my nieces, nephews and extended family via Zoom.

The origins of Lunar New Year date back thousands of years. They are deeply rooted in tradition and represent various Asian cultures and heritages at their core. On February 12, the Year of the Ox began with the weight of the challenges that the previous Year of the Rat had brought to the world.

But as we move into the Year of the Ox, we continue to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the Korean War years, and honour the service and sacrifice of all the brave men and women who fought to protect my parents and the Korean people from communist tyranny. These heroes, past and present, remind us of the strength and courage we need to muster to face challenges head on.

And Lunar New Year and all its traditions help us to hold our family, friends and community dear in our hearts, whether we are together or apart.