Lunar New Year 2021: Chinese expats in UAE see hope as Year of Ox begins

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UAE – Away from home, many Chinese expatriates feel fortunate to be in the UAE as they ring in the Chinese Lunar New Year. Many are missing meeting their families, but by not travelling to their home country, they are responding to the appeal of the Chinese government and showing their sense of filial and nationalistic responsibility.

“I, much like many Chinese expatriates in the UAE, completely understand and support the government request of not travelling at the moment. The health and safety of all is much more important than celebration,” said Li Xuhang, Consul-General of the People’s Republic of China in Dubai. Xuhang plans to have dinner with his colleagues and watch the Spring Festival Gala on TV as the Year of Ox begins.

Even though the Chinese New Year has evolved into a global event, the celebrations will be muted this year pretty much everywhere across the world due to the pandemic.

“Thankfully, we have restaurants open in Dubai. We will probably have a meal together as a family to celebrate. Nothing much. Most of the wishes will be shared online, through Zoom calls or messages,” said Xiaoping Xu, who has been celebrating the NYEs in Dubai at City Walk for the last three years.

The scale of celebrations in the country will also be muted this year — with cancellation of the dragon dance and other pomp and show.

“This is the first time I will be not meeting my family on the New Year, which saddens me, but then we all understand the gravity of the situation,” said Wei, who feels it is a collective responsibility to act responsibly during the pandemic. He added he is fortunate to be in Dubai, where a sense of normalcy has returned to daily life. “I will probably go out for lunch or dinner with my family.”

The Chinese New Year triggers what is often referred to as the world’s largest annual mass migration as hundreds of millions of Chinese expatriates usually make the annual trip home to see their families. This year, the Chinese government has appealed to its community spread out around the world to avoid unnecessary travel.

After a relative success in combating the virus, China has been battling its worst run of outbreaks since the pandemic was at its peak in early 2020. New set of restrictions and incentives are aimed at containing the spread.

The Chinese community is hopeful that the vaccination drive will soon help in restore normalcy not just in their home country but across the world. “I am proud of the support the Chinese government is giving to countries worldwide through the vaccination programme. In the UAE, too, we have Sinopharm being widely administered,” said Wei.

Despite the unusualness to the year, the Chinese community believes it is still a good start, especially with China’s and the UAE’s Mars missions beginning to orbit the red planet. “It begets hope,” said Xu.

Ox in the Chinese culture represents hardwork, perseverance, and diligence. It signifies movement, and many in the Chinese community believe it could be a turning point in the pandemic. “May it help bring an end to normalcy and allow businesses and lives to bounce back,” said Wei.

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