Crossing Paths

Crossing Paths
Model Melbourne trams

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Lunar new year on Victoria Street.

As a nod to our Asian/Oriental friends at this time of the year, the lunar new year festivities have been going off around town with a lot of red and gold, some pyrotechnics, and a chance to get a cracking feed.

"Dad, can I keep him? He followed me home"

This celebration highlights the diverse cultures that exist in historical and contempary Australia, the Asian/oriental component started with the gold rush of the mid nineteenth century, when thousands of hopefuls descended from all parts of the world to try their luck at the diggings of Ballarat and  Bendigo.  This included a fair contingent from mainland China, the goldfields were a rough and tumble environment, upon which fortunes could be made very quickly while others suffered the drudge of working for survival.

The Chinese miners at the time were resented for their ability to work over previously worked ground  collectively and still manage to turn a profit, this led to a discriminatory landing duty of  £10 for any man landing in the Colony of Victoria from mainland China.  This tax was thwarted by the miners landing in the next colony of South Australia then trekking across to the border to central Victorian goldfields.

One party of Chinese miners in 1857 while en route from Robe, South Australia to the goldfields, struck gold at the Canton Lead (Ararat, 92km west of Ballarat), which led to the establishment of that town.

As the alluvial gold diminished, leading to the deeper mechanised mining techniques utilising underground shafts and drives, the Chinese miners moved into mercantile industries such as market gardens, restaurants and specific business aligned with their communities. Little Bourke St, Melbourne is home to one the longest continuous operating 'Chinatown' in the western world and there are still temples and joss houses in Ballarat and Bendigo.

The lunar new year is also celebrated by a more recent arrival, the South Vietnamese, they refer to it as Tet. After the fall of Saigon which signalled the end of the long protracted conflict in 1975, thousands sought refuge outside Vietnam by attempting the perilous journey across the sea.

Upon processing and resettlement many Vietnamese created 'Little Saigon' enclaves in the Melbourne suburbs of Footscray, Richmond and Springvale, thus in filling these tired shopping strips with exotic grocery stores, butchers, fishmongers with restaurants that serve variations of the Vietnamese national dish of noodle soup called phó (pronounced fer), this fragrant broth with either chicken or beef strips and rice noodles when done well can have the restaurant with a queue out of the door waiting to be served.

These communities with differing histories in Australia that share a common calendar, welcome their new year with similar ceromonies that involve colour, food and fireworks with family and friends.

Lining up for a feed

This is what I love about Australia, variety courtesy of immigration, otherwise we would be stuck with stodgy meat and three veg forever.

So welcome to the year of the monkey.

From the red confetti of exploded crackers littering the street that's under the wires.

No comments:

Post a Comment