Does it ever seem like every major city in the world has a Chinatown? This far-flung diaspora only spreads the wealth of Lunar New Year celebrations. Known to some Westerners as the Chinese New Year, the Lunar New Year is a wintry respite from work before spring brings in a new farming season. The official celebration lasts about a week, but the holiday spirit often pervades the month leading up. As we enter the Year of the Rooster on January 28, consider celebrating in one of these festive cities.
It should go without saying that the most spectacular Lunar New Year celebration is in the Chinese capital. Beijing’s collection of ceremonies and carnivals, festivals and parties, focus on history and family more than any celebration you’ll find in the New World. Lion dancers, drum shows, and fireworks are certainly part of the picture. But among Beijing families, there is just as much cleaning house, visiting relatives, honoring ancestors, and praying to gods. Even the most attractive festivities take place at Temple Fairs.
Lunar New Year has become one of the most warmly welcomed events in Australia, and Sydney has a number of signature events. Dragon boat races on Cockle Bay and the colorful twilight parade form key cornerstones of the festivities, but there are many other smaller cultural events to enjoy as well. From martial arts demonstrations to karaoke contests, Sydney pays homage to the best of Chinese culture in the month leading up to Lunar New Year.
Before its 1957 independence, this miniscule nation was part of Malaysia, a country known for its large Chinese population. Today, Singapore throws one of the biggest Lunar New Year bashes outside China. Not restricted to the Chinatown neighborhood, Lunar New Year in Singapore takes over the entire city. Lanterns and lion-led parades fill practically every street, though Smith Street is dominated by its open air food market. For acrobatic performances and carnival shows, stick to the Esplanade Waterfront Promenade and the Marina Bay Floating Platform.
Think festivals are defined by their food? Ring in the Lunar New Year in Vancouver. Unique Chinese dishes fill the menu of a 10-course banquet at the annual Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner. Vancouver’s historic Chinatown also hosts the parade floats and dancing lions and dragons one expects of a Lunar New Year celebration, but for a more immersive experience, head to nearby Richmond. With one-fifth of its population being native Chinese dialect speakers, the flower markets, Buddhist temples, and traditional restaurants of Richmond make it one of the most authentic places outside China to enjoy Lunar New Year.
Next to the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown may be the best known attraction of San Francisco. So it should come as no surprise that the California city hosts a phenomenal Lunar New Year celebration. In fact, its illuminated night parade is one of the oldest Lunar New Year parades outside Asia, as Chinese immigrants began celebrating their new year in the 1860s. Firecrackers, stilt walkers, and marching bands herald the arrival of the 268-foot Golden Dragon in this iconic festival.