Published on February 1st, 2019 | by Alyssa Daniells0
How The World Celebrates Lunar New Year
Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year, is the most celebrated holiday in China. Extravagant celebrations take place across the country and extend around the world, starting the week before and continuing for two weeks (or more!) after New Year’s Day.
Spectacular fireworks displays mark the end of one year and the start of the next. Sumptuous traditional feasts of dumplings, spring rolls, and tangyuan (soup made with glutinous rice balls) are abundant. Red, the luckiest colour in Chinese culture, is used everywhere. From red Chinese New Year decorations to red envelopes stuffed with money parents give to their kids, red brings good fortune.
Falling on the second new moon following the winter solstice, the holiday lands on a different date every year. This year, Lunar New Year takes place on Saturday, January 25, 2020, ringing in the Year of the Rat, and bringing the Year of the Pig to a close.
Lunar Year of the Rat
This Lunar New Year celebrates the Rat. Rarely celebrated in everyday life for being anything more than a rodent, any circumstance involving a rat is usually a bad sign. But as the first sign of the Chinese zodiac, the Rat couldn’t be any more opposite. The Rat is wise, quick-witted, good with money, and intelligent. As a result of these traits, those born in this lunar year* possess the good fortune of wealth and prosperity.
*1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, and 2020
Chinese New Year is a time to observe tradition, honour the past, and mark the coming of spring. From Hong Kong to Mauritius to Vancouver, here’s how the world celebrates Lunar New Year.
Lunar celebrations in Hong Kong are of the “go big or go home” calibre — and to give you an idea of just how big, put it this way, no one is going home! The 3-day festival includes a jubilant night parade, exciting horse racing and magnificent firework displays over Causeway Bay. Hong Kong is famous for its gastronomy, so it’s no surprise food plays an important role in local New Year festivities. Restaurants buzz morning to night with steaming and sizzling dishes, and hungry, joyous revellers. A must-try is nin gou, Cantonese new year cake, a sweet, glutinous rice cake that symbolizes togetherness, and dates back to ancient China.
Elaborate events mark the Lunar New Year in Singapore, where traditional Chinese elements fuse with the multiculturalism for which Singapore is known. The dazzling Chingay Parade is a perfect example, bringing Malays, Indians, Europeans and Chinese alike in celebration of the Lunar New Year. Like Hong Kong, this city-state also takes food seriously. Singapore is a cultural melting pot, with Chinese descendants making up the majority. Speaking of pot, a beloved new year dish is the hot pot, a large, shared soup of meat, seafood, rice noodles, and vegetables. And who doesn’t love the slurpy, spicy, savoury goodness of Singapore noodles? Representing long life, noodles are an important culinary tradition during Lunar New Year.
The largest Asian population in the United States is in San Francisco, with 21.5% claiming Chinese descent. San Fran’s vibrant Chinatown attracts both tourists and locals throughout the year. Lunar New Year is especially a large draw, with dragon dances, lanterns and a famous parade. The area’s population doubles in size (and thanks to the delicious food offerings, don’t be surprised if your waistline does, too!) Feast on crab legs, fried fish dumplings, and Chinese-American food, then walk it off roaming Chinatown’s New Year Flower Market Fair.
A small, tropical island surrounded by the Indian Ocean may not come to mind when we think of Lunar New Year festivities. Mauritius, in fact, has a has a large Chinese community, descended from immigrants who came as business owners and traders in the 19th century, and live mainly in Port Louis, where the biggest parties are. The Lunar New Year marks the impending spring, and the gorgeous white beaches, calm, turquoise ocean and tropical greenery of Mauritius are warm and hopeful reminders of good weather ahead. Not to mention, they make a stunning backdrop for traditional festivities with an exotic, Mauritian twist.
In stark contrast to the idyllic conditions mentioned above, The Year of the Rat in Canada will be observed in a cold climate. Luckily, there will be plenty of delicious food and body heat to warm up celebrants! Canada’s two biggest cities, Vancouver and Toronto, have large and well-established East Asian residents, working together with local city governments to joyfully rouse cultural awareness and community spirit. In Toronto, a long-standing tradition of dragon dances will be performed in Chinatowns on Spadina Avenue and in Markham on January 25, 2020. On the same date in Vancouver, families of all ethnicities will descend on the city’s Chinatown for its annual New Year parade.
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