Lunar New Year (also known as Chinese New Year, or the Spring Festival) is an important holiday celebrated in China and by the Chinese diaspora all around the world. Lunar New Year starts on the first new moon of the year and ends with the first full moon, and is based on the Chinese lunisolar calendar. It’s a time to visit relatives and spend time with family, and traditionally was a way to honour ancestors and household deities. Here are a few other things you should know about Lunar New Year, and places to celebrate it in Australia.
What is Lunar New Year?
Chinese New Year has been celebrated for thousands of years, and it has many legends associated with it. The legend of Nian explains some of the origins of Lunar New Year customs. Nian was a mythical creature who would attack villages before the Lunar New Year, but eventually, the villagers drove him off using red clothing, lanterns, and firecrackers. The Chinese zodiac animals are also an important aspect of Chinese New Year, with each year given one of the twelve animals of the Zodiac. 2018 is the Year of the Dog.
There are many festivals and events that occur over the course of the Lunar New Year. The most important festival is the Lantern Festival, which in 2018 occurs on the second of March. The Lantern Festival marks the end of the Lunar New Year. During the festival, lanterns decorate the streets and houses of the participants. Some of the lanterns have riddles on them, and the person who correctly answers them usually receives a small gift. Many people eat fish and vegetable salads, as well as small rice balls, called tangyuan or yuanxiao. During the Lunar New Year, performances are put on for the community, often involving lion or dragon dances.
Food is an important aspect of the Lunar New Year. On the eve of the new year, families come together to eat dinner with each other. Fish is usually one of the meals present, but many leave it uneaten, as a symbol of prosperity. Another food eaten during this time is New Year’s cake, or nian gao. The name sounds like the pronunciation of ‘year high’, which symbolises success and prosperity, making it good luck to eat the cake during the new year, or give it as a gift. On the first five days of Chinese New Year, many people eat long noodles, which symbolise long life. On the last day it is common to eat moon-shaped dumplings, as a symbol of close family relationships.
Lunar New Year has many customs and traditions surrounding it so it is hard to pick just a couple. For example, just over a week before the new year, many people carry out a custom called the sweeping of the grounds. It is a day dedicated to cleaning the house to remove bad spirits and bad luck, in preparation for the new year. After the house is clean, it is common to hang red decorations and lanterns. On the day of the new year, red packets filled with money are given to relatives, typically between couples, or from an older relative to a young child.
Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year in Australia
Each year, Lunar New Year is being celebrated and embraced more widely around Australia. Below are just some of the places you can go to:
- Opening night fireworks at Circular Quay (16th Feb)
- Community performances at Circular Quay (15th – 25th Feb)
- Zodiac Lunar Lanterns at Circular Quay (16th – 25th Feb)
- International Student Chinese New Year Party (18th Feb)
- New Year’s Eve/Day celebrations at Queensbridge Square (15th – 16th Feb)
- Celebrations at Docklands Library, the Waterfront, and the Melbourne Star (18th – 25th Feb)
- Chinese New Year Gala Concert (25th Feb)
- Lunar New Year Street Party in Chinatown (17th Feb)
- Chinese New Year Fair at Northbridge (18th Feb)
- Chinese New Year performances at Hillarys Marina (25th Feb)
- Chinese New Year at National Multicultural Festival (16th – 18th Feb)
- Beijing Garden Lantern Festival (3rd March)
- Lunar New Year Festival at the Parliament House Lawns (18th Feb)
- Hobart Chinese Lantern Festival (2nd Mar)