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6 Places to Celebrate Lunar New Year

by Travelbag on 22 January 2020, 17:01PM

Lunar New Year

This weekend is the Lunar New Year – also known as Chinese New Year or Spring Festival. Based on the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar, the celebration begins on the new moon, which can be anytime between 21st January and 20th February. In 2020, the first day of the New Year falls on 25th January, and it will usher in the Year of the Rat – an animal which symbolises wealth and the beginning of a new day.

The Lunar New Year’s the biggest celebration of the year in China, with towns and cities across the country hosting fireworks displays, parades and festivals steeped in tradition. But China’s by no means the only place to mark the occasion. If you fancy joining the festivities, these are some of the best destinations around the world putting on Lunar New Year spectacles.

Vancouver

Multicultural Vancouver, on Canada’s west coast, goes all out for the Lunar New Year. Unsurprisingly, most festivities take place in the historic Chinatown neighbourhood. The highlight of the Vancouver Chinatown Spring Festival, as the celebrations are known, is the Chinese New Year Parade. Now in its 47th year, the parade features more than 3,000 performers, including cultural dance troupes, marching bands, martial arts performers and many more. It attracts over 100,000 spectators, who line the 1.3-kilometre route.

Post-parade, lion dances take place throughout Chinatown, promoting good fortune for the coming year. A two-day Cultural Fair will take place over the course of the weekend at Sun Yat-sen Plaza, where you can expect martial arts demonstrations and cultural performances. If you want some respite from all the hubbub, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden makes for a peaceful retreat. On Sunday 26th there’ll be a family-friendly Year of the Rat Temple Fair taking place here. You can enjoy live music, traditional arts and crafts, a calligraphy contest, tea tastings, and more.

Away from Chinatown, the city’s ice hockey team, the Vancouver Canucks, will also be joining in the celebrations. When they play on Saturday 25th, they’ll be unveiling brand new warm-up jerseys. Designed in a traditional red and gold colour palette, the uniform features shoulder patches showing a rat holding a hockey stick. Dragon and lion dancers will also be performing throughout the evening, and there’ll be Canucks Night Market where you can buy food, drinks and souvenirs.

If you’re wondering how else to spend time in the city, these are the top 10 things to do in Vancouver.

Vancouver Lunar New Year

Singapore

The Lunar New Year is a two-day public holiday in Singapore. The normally staid city-state is illuminated with traditional Chinese lanterns and colourful street lights, while street performers, acrobats and lion dancers provide entertainment. In Chinatown, Kreta Ayer Square, next to the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, sees nightly stage shows from local and overseas artists.

Over at Marina Bay, the world's largest floating stage – The [email protected] Bay – plays host to the Singapore River Hong Bao carnival. This 10-day extravaganza of lights, sights and sounds derives its name from the red envelopes of money that older Chinese people traditionally give to younger, unmarried relatives at Lunar New Year. Since 1987, residents and visitors have gathered to enjoy the cultural performances, street food and firework displays that this event entails.

The climax of Singapore’s Lunar New Year celebration is a two-night street parade called Chingay. Translating as “the art of costume and masquerade,” it well and truly lives up to its name. While rooted in Chinese tradition, it’s now proudly multicultural. These days it involves thousands of local performers, plus international groups from countries including China, Denmark, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Taiwan. The largest street and float parade in Asia, it features colourful costumes, dancing dragons, stilt walkers, pyrotechnics, and a whole host of other attractions. This year’s theme is ‘Colours in Harmony’ and it’s set to include the world’s longest ‘flying dragon.’

Whether you’re planning a standalone city break or going to be stopping en route elsewhere, read about how to spend 24 hours in Singapore.

Singapore River Hong Bao

Shanghai

There’s perhaps nowhere better to celebrate the Lunar New Year than China’s biggest metropolis. The Yuyuan Garden is one of Shanghai’s premier tourist attractions and during the Spring Festival it draws about six million visitors. This is thanks to its world-class lantern display – a month-long celebration that’s taken place for the past 25 years. The creations on show are all different shapes, sizes, and colours. They were made over the course of almost two months by a group of Chinese artisans, using traditional methods. The custom designs depict everything from fish (which represent wealth and prosperity) and dragons (to symbolise good luck) to New Year wishes, riddles and puns. The major draw, though, is a nine-metre-tall golden mouse standing on a giant dragon boat in the central plaza of Yuyuan Garden Malls.

If you’re visiting Shanghai with little ones, you may want to avoid the crowds at Yuyuan Gardens. Instead, make a beeline for Shanghai Disneyland, which is celebrating the Spring Festival in its own way. A few days ago, new Lunar New Year-inspired outfits for Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse were unveiled. Created by award-winning couture fashion designer Guo Pei, they’ll also be worn by the characters at Disneyland California, just outside Los Angeles. Until 9th February, Shanghai Disneyland is putting on a special nightly firework display. Spring Festival 2020 Firework Celebration: Our Families takes place after the Ignite the Dream show, and features projections on the castle that include families from Disney movies, traditional Chinese elements like calligraphy, lanterns, and Spring Festival blessings. The show’s accompanied by traditional Chinese music and narrated by Mickey Mouse himself, in his brand new getup. A Spring Festival Banquet will also take place on 23rd and 24th January in the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel's Cinderella Ballroom. 

Lanterns in Yuyuan Gardens 

Kuala Lumpur

Ethnic Chinese are the largest minority in Kuala Lumpur, so there are celebrations galore during Lunar New Year. There’s the usual parade, lion dances and fireworks, as expected, but the most striking sight here is Thean Hou Temple – one of the largest and oldest temples in Malaysia. Each year, the majestic six-tiered temple is decked out in hundreds of glowing red lanterns, creating quite the spectacle. To ring in the Year of the Rat, two gigantic rat sculptures have been added to the decorations, each holding a bucket of rice.

If temples aren’t your thing, though, there are also impressive decorations to be seen at KL’s shopping malls. At Pavilion KL, amid the luxury brands and international chain stores, you’ll find giant, rotating Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse statues. Created in partnership with the Walt Disney Company, these record-breaking sculptures are complemented with Mickey Mouse-shaped lanterns, LED-lighted cherry blossom trees and an interactive LED lake complete with koi.

Over at Suria KLCC, there’s a 70-foot pagoda replica at the KLCC Esplanade, while bespectacled rats greet visitors arriving at the Centre Court. The festive celebration is a collaboration with jewellery brand Pandora, and it includes activities like fortune telling and interactive zodiac reading. Finally, the Gardens Mall is adorned with meticulously folded crane origami in shades of red and gold. It symbolises good fortune and longevity, and you can increase your own luck by joining one of the mall’s origami workshops.

Thean Hou Temple 

San Francisco

San Francisco began marking the Lunar New Year in the 1860s, as the city built up a large Chinese population. Since then, both the parade and festival have grown to epic proportions. This year’s Chinese New Year Parade will wind its way through the city on the evening of 8th February, culminating on the edge of Chinatown. A true celebration of Asian culture, it’s one of very few illuminated night parades anywhere in the United States. A crowd favourite is always Gum Lung – a spectacular 28-foot-long golden dragon that requires a team of 180 people to successfully operate it!

The weekend before the Lunar New Year there’s a Flower Fair, so people can buy traditional plants and flowers to decorate their homes and give as gifts. There’s also a Community Street Fair the same weekend as the parade, with over 100 booths and concessions turning Chinatown into a shopper’s paradise. And for the past 60 years, young women from across the country have come to San Francisco to partake in the Miss Chinatown USA Pageant. It coincides with the Lunar New Year and the new Queen and her court become goodwill ambassadors for the Chinese community.

San Francisco Lunar New Year Parade

Sydney

One of the biggest Lunar New Year celebrations outside Asia, Sydney’s two-week festival programme has more than 90 events across arts, culture, food and sport. The magical Lunar Lanterns, which fuse modern technology with classic Chinese techniques, will light up Sydney Harbour from 31st January until 9th February. Stroll along the Circular Quay foreshore, from Sydney Opera House to The Rocks, and you’ll discover giant artworks representing the 12 animal signs of the Chinese zodiac. The star attraction is obviously the glowing tower of nine, 2.8-metre-tall, gold animatronic rats. Reminiscent of robots from old sci-fi films, each rat has a wind-up key in its back and the Chinese symbol for good luck spinning on its chest.

Of course there’ll be lion dances and other festivities happening in Chinatown and, on Lunar New Year’s Day, celebrations will transform Sydney’s Haymarket laneways into a giant street party. An exciting regatta takes place during the middle weekend of the festival. The largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, it sees more than 3,000 paddlers churn the waters of Cockle Bay as 12-metre-long dragon boats race to the beat of a drum.

If you’re a fan of Chinese food but also want to spot some classic Aussie animals, head to WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo any evening before 1st February. As well as after-hours access to the zoo, you’ll be treated to all-you-can-eat dumplings at the Koala Rooftop. For 30 minutes you can stuff yourself silly with wontons and Xiao Long Bao while marvelling at just how fluffy these cute little critters are.

Lunar Lanterns, Sydney

Lunar New Year inspiring you to book a holiday to Asia? Our experts can help you plan a trip that’s right for you.

And if it’s a beach break you’re after, these are the 10 best islands in Asia.


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