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Celebrating Chinese New Year at Mascot House in Newcastle
Kin Chuen Kwok is the housing for older and vulnerable persons co-ordinator at Mascot House, Thirteen’s Chinese elders sheltered scheme in Newcastle. The scheme, based near China Town in the city centre, supports Chinese older people who speak Cantonese and/or Hakka.
At the moment, most of the residents are Hakka from Sha Tau Kok, Hong Kong. They live in 30 one-bedroom apartments and a two-bedroom apartment, each with their own living room, kitchen, bedroom/s and bathroom, with the benefit of communal areas for socialising, when Covid-19 restrictions are eased.
Here, Kin reflects on how the scheme has celebrated Chinese New Year in 2021:
At Mascot House, we have a thriving community of Chinese people aged 60 and over who might need support to live independently in their own home.
I offer lots of support with language interpretation, medical appointments, liaison on behalf of residents with the city council and other organisations, and interpretation and reading for things like bills and statements. I’m also used to working with residents to organise lots of activities to reduce isolation and encourage independent living.
In years gone by, we’ve always had a Mascot House party either a few days before Chinese New Year or on the fifteenth day of new year.
Residents get involved and volunteer to do the shopping and cooking. Their favourite menu is a four course meal with chicken, pork, fish and vegetables, and we’ll have mandarins and Chinese tea after the main courses.
After the meal, residents love to sit in the communal room and chat for an hour or two, with some enjoying a game of mahjong too.
At one of the parties we’ve held through the years, we even had a fashion show after a meal, with residents dressed in traditional Chinese costumes with Hakka hats on.
Of course, this year things are very different due to the current national lockdown but we didn’t want our customers to miss out. We couldn’t have our usual new year party, so we shared traditional gifts with our residents.
The Chinese community likes to see things in red in the New Year season, so we put together biscuits, chocolates and clementines in red and orange packaging into bright red shopping bags.
Choosing clementines was important. We gave them as gifts because in Cantonese they’re known as ‘gat’ and the Cantonese pronunciation of that for clementines is same as the word for ‘auspicious’. They’re seen to bring good luck.
And so on Friday 12 February, Chinese New Year 2021, in the foyer area that we always have decorated with Chinese lanterns for good fortune, our residents came to collect their gifts. They of course wore face coverings and the times were staggered so that everyone could keep two metres apart.
The day before, on Chinese New Year eve, the England offices of the Consulate General of the People's Republic of China also sent gifts to all of our residents.
In Chinese culture, shortly before Chinese New Year local people present gifts to elder Chinese residents through local Chinese community organisations. These couldn’t be presented in person this year, so were sent directly to Mascot House. The gifts included things like rice, cooking oil, biscuits, noodles, mandarins, soya sauce, face coverings and lucky cookies.
Two of our residents received extra packages because of their seniority. It’s our culture to show our care and respect to our seniors in the community and this is practised all over the world – we’re no exception at Thirteen.
It was really lovely to see how happy all of the gift-giving made everyone, not just because of the significance of the choices of gifts, but because it reminded them that we’re still a close-knit community and that we’ll come together again when it’s safe to do so. That’s something we’re all really looking forward to and we will make New Year in 2022 even more special!
If you’d like to find out more about the accommodation available at Mascot House for Chinese elders, please call 0300 111 1000.