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Low-key welcome to Year of the Ox as Lunar New Year festivities reined in

A temporary shrine with a large Buddha was a colourful addition to an outdoor car park in Chinatown on Thursday, with chanting provided by monks from the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist temple in Yarraville

A volunteer, Dominique Yu, said the shrine — in place until Sunday — was where people who may be upset and unhappy due to the pandemic could light incense and pray “for peace, for good health, for family, for everything”.

Ms Yu hasn’t seen her New York-based daughter and three grandchildren since last July and hasn’t seen her son, who lives in Hong Kong, for almost a year.

It reminded her of what’s important in life and she was grateful her son could look after his grandparents in Hong Kong.

For New Year’s Eve on Thursday, Ms Yu and her husband were off to a Chinatown restaurant.

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“Soon, hopefully, the virus will be gone and the whole family can be together again. I think that’s what everybody wants,” she said.

Dan-Thanh Nguyen, 39, from Canterbury, the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, is one of the volunteer organisers of the annual Hoi Cho Tet festival at Sandown Racecourse that usually attracts 30,000 people. But it ran solely online last weekend due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms Nguyen will celebrate New Year twice with family: on Thursday she and her husband and three young children dined at her Chinese born in-laws’ house in Glen Waverley, while on Friday they will visit her parents’ house in Ferntree Gully.

At midnight on Thursday, Ms Nguyen’s parents, Thai Nguyen and Dam Vang, were going to a Sunshine temple called Den Tho Quoc To to “greet the new year”, burn incense and worship their ancestors.

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“I always look forward to New Year, this year more to say goodbye to the terrible year we’ve had and to hope this year, the Ox, is much, much better,” Ms Nguyen said.

In Chinatown on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4.30pm there will be line dancing, craft stalls and roving acts to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

From 10am on Sunday at Queen Victoria Market there will be street food, kids’ craft, drumming shows and a lion dance.

The Dragon Boat Festival is on all day Saturday and Sunday at Victoria Harbour in Docklands.

Click here for a list of Lunar New Year activities around Melbourne and across the country.

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