Chinese New Year

How Chinese New Year is celebrated around the world

Matthew G. Yuching
How Chinese New Year is celebrated around the world

GLOBAL CELEBRATION. The Chinese New Year is celebrated in different forms around the world

Learn more about how different communities worldwide celebrate the Chinese New Year

MANILA, Philippines – Chinese communities worldwide celebrate the Lunar or Chinese New Year on January 22, 2023.

Towns and cities around the world with predominant Chinese communities celebrate the coming of spring with fireworks, red lanterns, and lion dances that are said to bring good luck and fortune.

As the propagation of Chinese culture to different parts of the world happened at different points in time, the culture and tradition that was brought with them also vary.

How do these different communities worldwide celebrate the Chinese New Year?

Global chinatowns

A Chinatown emerged in London much younger than others during the 1970s. 

The London Chinatown Chinese Association in the UK hosts the annual London Chinese New Year Celebration. Organized mainly in the iconic Trafalgar Square, the celebration boasted to be the biggest gathering of Chinese lions and dragons in Europe. 

LONDON CHINATOWN. A Chinese lion dance is performed in Chinatown during Lunar New Year celebrations in London, UK, January 21, 2023. Henry Nicholls/Reuters

On the other hand, New York, USA is home to the biggest Chinatowns in the world, spread throughout at least six enclaves, according to the New York Times. The annual Chinatown parade in Manhattan is celebrating its 25th anniversary this 2023.

Chinatown, Manhattan had been in existence since the 1850s, with Chinese immigrants coming into the States during the California Gold Rush settling far east.

MANHATTAN CHINATOWN. A Lunar New Year parade being held in Chinatown, New York. Joe Buglewicz/NYC & Company

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is organizing a series of events for the holiday, including a lion dance, shadow theater, Chinese calligraphy, and a tea ceremony demonstration.

The Sara D. Roosevelt street, a part of the Manhattan Chinatown, will be set alight with firecrackers, which are believed to ward off evil spirits.

Chinatowns in Johannesburg, South Africa and Melbourne, Australia also have their own celebrations during the new year.

A Siberian new year

Eastern Russia is home to the Buryat, a Mongolian ethnic group who mostly reside in Ulan-Ude, Republic of Buryatia, bordering Lake Baikal. They celebrate the Sagaalgan, similar to the Chinese New Year. 

Translated as the “White Month,” this Buddhist tradition also celebrates the end of winter, and the coming of spring.

The month-long celebration happens in datsans, or Buddhist temple-universities. A khural, or prayer service, is held 2 days before the new year, according to the Calvert Journal

It is then followed by the dugzhuub, a ritual where a large bonfire is lit to cast out evil spirits and misfortune.

Families often stay up all night and have celebrations at home as well as eating white-themed dishes such as buuzy, a kind of meat dumpling.

A festival is held the day after, despite still freezing below-zero temperatures. The Sagaan Ubgen, or the White Elder, goes around to greet and wish people good fortune for the coming year.

Badeuseyo!

Koreans take influence from the Chinese, as they celebrate Seollal, or the Korean New Year on the same date. The three-day holiday is focused on family, with many returning home to celebrate together. 

On the first day of the new year, younger Koreans pay respect to their elders through sebae, or bowing deeply on their knees. In response, elders would give a gift, in the form of money, tokens, or words of wisdom.

Koreans also pay respects to their ancestors through charye, where food is laid out as offering, then bow in reverence to their forebears.

Koreans in traditional hanbok play Yut Nori in front of the National Folk Museum in Seoul Korea. Jeon Han/Korea.net

Food always comes with celebrating the new year. Dishes like tteokguk, when eaten turns you a year older; jeon, a savory pancake dish containing spring onions with a mix of either kimchi or seafood; and japchae, a spicy noodle dish eaten to signify living a long life.

A multicultural celebration

Translating to the art of costume and masquerade, the Chingay Parade is an after-party celebration of the Chinese New Year.

Tracing its origins to a Chinese parade in Penang, Malaysia in 1912. It was originally a performance of balancing a huge flag, but over time had evolved into a parade involving local Malays and Indians.

BALANCING ACT. A performer balances a flag during the Chingay parade in Penang, Malaysia. Penang Global Tourism’s Facebook page

In Singapore, Chingay is celebrated 2 weeks after the Chinese New Year. It was developed by then-prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1973 as an alternative to the banned use of firecrackers the year prior.

The Singaporean Chingay in 1976 invited other ethnic communities in the city-state to join in on the festivities. They also invited Japanese performers in 1987 as part of efforts to invite international talent to the parade.

PARADE OF COLORS. Perfomers walk along the F1 Pit during the Singaporean Chingay parade. Visit Singapore
Cultures intermingling

The Filipino Chinese New Year is celebrated much like the rest, with an addition of Catholic and superstitious beliefs.

As the celebration this year falls on a Sunday, many Chinese-Filipino churches celebrate mass in Mandarin, as well as having an ancestral veneration, where food and wine are offered to an altar as a sign of respect.

In Ongpin, stores are filled to the brim with incense sticks, joss or incense papers, and various anting-anting being sold to passers-by.

The celebration in the world’s oldest Chinatown is always a day-long affair, with roads closed off to give way to the different parades and performances throughout the day.

CARDBOARD LION. People watch as children dance in their makeshift lion costume, ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year, in Manila, Philippines, January 21, 2023. Lisa Marie David/Reuters
Where it all began

In China, the Chinese New Year is a massive affair. Known as Chunyun or the Spring Travel, hundreds of millions of Chinese take by land, air, and sea to be with their family for the New Year.

All the food eaten during this time symbolizes something, such as oranges for good luck, noodles for a long life, and niangao (also known as tikoy) for a prosperous year.

The liberal use of red and fireworks during the celebration stems from the belief that it was able to ward of beasts who would prey on villagers every year.

Celebrations last for 15 days, starting with family dinners, exchanging of red envelopes (known as angpao locally), and ends with the Lantern festival on the 15th day.

People touch the costume of dragon dancers during a Spring Festival performance ahead of Chinese Lunar New Year in Qinglonghu Park in Beijing, China January 21, 2023. Thomas Peter/Reuters

The different ways in which we celebrate the Chinese New Year shows the diversity of culture. It is not a homogenous tradition, but is rather molded and formed by communities who make it their own. – Rappler.com

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.