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Extravaganza: A Lunar New Year Celebration at the Malaysian Embassy

By Celine Ford, President, AAFSW

The Malaysian Embassy in Washington, D.C., came alive with vibrant colors, cultural performances, and festive spirit as it co-hosted with AAFSW an extravagant Lunar New Year celebration on February 23, 2024. The event, organized by His Excellency Ambassador Nazri Aziz and Mrs. Haflin Nazri Aziz, welcomed guests to usher in the Year of the Dragon with joy and unity.

Unity Is Strength: A Malaysian Motto

The message resonated deeply as we gathered, remembering the auspicious motto of the country, “Bersekutu Bertambah Mutu” (Unity is Strength). The diverse crowd, including Excellencies, distinguished spouses of ambassadors, valued members, and friends of the Associates of the American Foreign Services Worldwide (AAFSW), exemplified the power of collaboration and shared purpose.

The Significance of the Lunar New Year

The Lunar New Year, or the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival, holds immense importance for the Chinese Malaysian community. It marks the beginning of the lunar calendar and typically falls between late January and mid-February. We celebrated the Year of the Dragon, a symbol of courage and tenacity this year.

A Malaysian Guide to the Festivities

Dragon Puppets and Traditional Displays

The embassy grounds came alive with traditional dragon puppets, stretching up to an impressive 65 feet. These interconnected segments, held by dedicated teams, weaved through the crowd, symbolizing prosperity, strength, and good fortune. Lions danced alongside, their vibrant colors adding to the festive atmosphere.

Lanterns, Drums, and Confetti

Red lanterns adorned the pathways, casting a warm glow as the sunset. Drums and cymbals reverberated through the air, creating an infectious rhythm. Puffs of confetti added an element of surprise, delighting both young and old.

Multilingual Greetings

As marchers paraded, they shouted “Happy New Year” in English, seamlessly blending traditional Mandarin and Cantonese greetings. The air buzzed with excitement as wishes for financial prosperity echoed around us.

A Global Celebration

Across the world, Asian communities welcomed the Lunar New Year with fireworks, parades, and rituals. In New York, larger Chinese immigrant enclaves in Queens and Brooklyn had already celebrated. But here, at the Malaysian Embassy, the festivities continued, bridging cultures, and fostering goodwill.

Ambassador Nazri Aziz’s Sincere Address

Amidst the vibrant festivities, Ambassador Nazri Aziz took the stage, his voice carrying the weight of history and diplomacy. He spoke of the special relationship between Malaysia and the United States with genuine warmth—a bond forged through mutual understanding, shared values, and a commitment to making the world a better place.

Ambassador Aziz emphasized the importance of cultural exchange, education, and collaboration. He praised the tireless efforts of diplomats, scholars, and citizens who work tirelessly to strengthen ties between our nations. His heartfelt speech resonated with everyone present, reminding us that diplomacy is not just about treaties and protocols; it’s about building bridges of friendship and goodwill.

An Exquisite Malay Culinary Journey at the Grand Ballroom

One of the most memorable and enchanting moments during the event was the sumptuous feast served to the enchanted guests in the lavishly adorned ballroom. The culinary team meticulously crafted each dish from scratch, infusing them with love and tradition.

The gastronomic adventure commenced with the Lunar New Year Yee Sang Toss, a Malaysian gem that symbolizes prosperity, health, and good fortune. As guests gathered around the elegantly set tables, they participated in this unique tradition, tossing vibrant ingredients high into the air, their hopes soaring.

Then the buffet opened, unfolding the Yee Sang Cantonese-Style Raw Fish Salad: A harmonious blend of fresh fish, crisp vegetables, and zesty sauces; Longevity Noodles Soup: Steaming bowls of fragrant broth cradled delicate noodles, signifying a wish for a long and prosperous life; Seafood Dumplings: The ocean’s bounty wrapped in translucent skins.

The Buah-Buahan Platter, a vibrant display of tropical fruits was served with the  Dragon Fruit, with its magenta flesh and speckled skin, mandarin oranges, symbols of luck, nestled beside Persimmons, the Pomelo, a giant citrus orb; the Lai Chee Knag, a dessert combining dried fruits and Sweet Lotus Seeds was served with the Pu’er Tea: The finale—a cup of fermented Chinese tea. Guests sipping Pu’er Teaoff shared stories, laughter, and dreams. The beautifully decorated ballroom witnessed a meal and a culinary symphony, a true celebration of life, culture, and connection.

A Breathtaking Evening

Our guests were captivated by the event, feeling a genuine sense of inclusion in Malaysia’s Lunar New Year celebrations. They were profoundly touched and immensely thankful for the warm reception extended by Ambassador Nazri Aziz, Mrs. Haflin Nazri Aziz, and their committed team. The level of teamwork and coordination required for this event must have been immense; the execution was flawless, making the evening genuinely breathtaking.  

As we embraced the Year of the Dragon, we carried the spirit of unity, resilience, and hope. The Malaysian Embassy’s Lunar New Year celebration was more than an event; it was a testament to the bonds that connect us all. May this year bring us closer to realizing our aspirations, just as the dragon soars toward the skies.

The Associates of the American Foreign Services Worldwide (AAFSW) thank Ambassador Nazri Aziz, Mrs. Haflin Nazri Aziz, and their dedicated team for hosting this memorable celebration.