Chinese New Year Trafalgar SquareFebruary 11, 2013
Sun Nien Fai Lok
It is a great pleasure to be with you here today on this joyous occasion to celebrate a new year in the Chinese calendar – the year of the snake!
As a British Chinese working in Parliament I am proud that this event we hold here has grown from strength to strength, and in many ways symbolises how we have arrived in Britain and become part of the fabric of this great nation, contributing in so many ways economically, socially, and of course culturally.
For many I think in my generation and those on the rise, I have to confess that at times we were tempted to integrate so much that we almost lost our identities, becoming in effect Brits who just happened to come from Chinese backgrounds, at risk of losing the language and culture that stretches back proudly into the ancient past thousands of miles away.
But I believe now that we do not need to hide our culture, just as we no longer hide our celebrations today, but we can invite others whether British or otherwise, to come and learn with us about our history, our festivals, our culture, and our dreams and hopes for the future. Today and this year, let us take pride in being both British and Chinese, and help bridge the cultures from both the West and the East.
The snake, whose year we have now entered, is a great example of how we can build bridges and learn more about each others’ cultures and indeed about our own. Many will observe how the snake symbolises different things in western and eastern culture. In the one culture it is regarded with suspicion, and associated with temptation. In the other with longevity and wealth. But it is also associated in Chinese culture with sacrificial love, as we see in China’s famous love story, the Legend of the White Snake who gave up her immortality to marry a human. In the West we also easily forget how in the Bible in the Book of Numbers the snake was also a symbol of healing, when the people of God struck by diseases were healed by looking in faith at a bronze snake in the dessert held up by Moses, which is one of the reasons that today still the traditional symbol of healthcare and pharmacies is a snake wrapped around a stick.
So this year we have much to celebrate, much to learn, and much to be thankful for. May it not be a year of suspicion but a year of friendship, even love. Of Spring, rather than Winter. And may it not be a year of temptation to err, but one of healing and full of hope for us, our families, and our nations.
I wish you all a happy year of the snake, whether you are British or Chinese, Western or Eastern, or both!
Xin nin quai le