The lunar festival of Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, will be celebrated by around a billion people worldwide on Sunday, February 10th this year.
So what’s it all about? Well, along with the usual ‘out with the old, in with the new’ celebrations, it’s also a chance to cultivate good luck for the coming year. Friends and families exchange red envelopes with ‘lucky’ amounts of money in them, tasty treats are given as gifts and – let’s not forget – an unbelievable amount of fireworks are set off to drive off evil spirits and to signify joy.
Why Hong Kong? Four words: fireworks over the harbour.
What to do? On February 10th, the Night Parade will wind its way around Tsim Sha Tsui in a Carnival-style display of elaborate floats, performers and dancers, starting at 8pm. The next evening, head down towards the Convention Centre or book onto a cruise ship to see barges in the harbour setting off beautiful synchronised fireworks against the city skyline for almost 30 minutes.
Why Beijing? The whole city gets into a festive mood and is famous for its temple fairs, performances, games and traditional arts and crafts.
What to do? Head out with the throngs of locals and visitors who will be strolling around the crowded fairs, eating delicious foods, playing carnival games and watching performances by acrobats, drum circles, opera singers, calligraphers and more.
Why Singapore? It’s a great opportunity to experience a uniquely multicultural Chinese New Year celebration in a vibrant, ethnically diverse city.
What to do? Singapore’s Chinatown will be celebrating the Lunar New Year from January 3rd to February 15th, with dance troupes, fire eaters and lion dancers at Kreta Ayer Square and beyond. But what makes Singapore’s celebrations so great is the extravagant two-day Chingay Parade which happens on February 22nd and 23rd at the F1 Pit Building. The multicultural parades will feature plenty of pyrotechnics, elaborate costumes and huge floats, followed by fun street parties.
Why Vancouver? You’d like to see the largest assembly of lion dance teams in Canada, wouldn’t you?
What to do? Join Vancouver’s 400,000 ethnic Chinese residents at a range of celebrations that start well before the official New Year. The Year of the Snake Expo at BC Place runs January 31st to February 3rd and will have tons of shopping opportunities, a food emporium, Korean drumming, performances by pop stars from Hong Kong and Taiwan and more. The big day is February 10th, when 3,000 performers take the Chinese New Year Parade from the massive Millennium Gate to Gore Street and back through Chinatown. Expect to see dance troupes, marching bands, the Vancouver Police Department Morotcycle Drill Team and more than 50 dancing lions.
Why San Francisco? Where better to celebrate the holiday than with the largest Chinese community outside of Asia?!
What to do? This huge Lunar New Year celebration stretches across two weeks and includes many tea ceremonies, folk dances, the Miss Chinatown USA Pageant and free performances at the Asian Art Museum. Whatever you do, make sure to witness the illuminated night-time parade on February 23rd; it starts on Market Street and wanders into Chinatown. The highlight is the 268-foot Golden Dragon carried by more than 100 performers. Check the official site for more dates and times.
Why Melbourne? Melbourne’s Chinatown is the oldest in Australia – it was established back in 1851.
What to do? Several different neighbourhoods have their own celebrations on different days so if you miss one you can always catch another. For instance, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year Celebration happens on February 3rd on Buckingham Avenue in Springvale, while on February 10th is Chinatown’s version on Little Bourke Street. You’ll find Chinese opera, karaoke competitions, Chinese chess competitions, calligraphy and lots of stuff for children. Have a look at the official website for details.
Why Sydney? It’s the perfect spot to explore Chinese-Australian culture in the country’s biggest Chinatown.
What to do? Check out ‘Snake Snake Snake’, an exhibition of contemporary Asian Australian artists at Sydney Town Hall from February 5th to 23rd. Looking for some glitz and glamour? Don your finest and attend the Dragon Ball on February 23rd! There will be a Twilight Parade on February 17th, while the markets will be open the weekend of February 8th to 10th. Check the official site for full listings of art installations, performances, banquets, lectures and more.
Why London? These are the biggest Chinese New Year celebrations outside Asia and are centred around the West End, right in the very heart of London.
What to do? The morning of February 10 starts with a morning parade through the West End to Trafalgar Square. This will be followed by music, plays, fashion shows and more at Trafalgar Square and Shaftesbury Avenue. Getting hungry? There’s no better place to satisfy your cravings than the area of Chinatown around Gerrard Street, where – in addition to 80-something restaurants – there will be tons of food stalls, all with a lion dance snaking throughout.
So where will you be celebrating the Year of the Snake? Thinking of heading out to take part in Chinese New Year? Don’t forget to wear red – an auspicious, happy colour closely tied to this fun festival.