Lunar New Year (also known as Chinese New Year, Tết in Vietnam, or Seollal in Korea) is celebrated across East and Southeast Asia. Usually occurring in late January or early February, 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 (although some South Asian celebrations occur in April, based on local lunisolar calendars, like Songkran in Thailand). Traditionally, it was a way to honour ancestors and household deities. It’s also a time to visit relatives, spend time with friends and family, and exchange gifts.
Here are a few other things you should know about Lunar New Year, as well as where you can celebrate it in Australia.
WHAT IS LUNAR NEW YEAR?
Lunar 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 animal signs are also an important aspect of Lunar New Year, with each year given one of the twelve animals of the Zodiac. This year is the Year of the Rat and is said to be a year of wealth and surplus.
There are several festivals and events that occur over the course of Lunar New Year. One of the most important festivals is the Lantern Festival, which marks the end of Lunar New Year and takes place on 8 February this year. During the festival, lanterns decorate the streets as well as the houses of participants. Some of the lanterns have riddles on them, and the person who correctly answers them usually receives a small gift. Many people enjoy traditional glutinous rice balls, called tangyuan and yuanxiao in China. During the Lunar New Year, performances are held 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, and each country’s Lunar New Year celebrations feature their own unique dishes. For example, during Chinese New Year, people enjoy 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. In Vietnam, bánh chưng is distinctive to the Tết holiday, which is traditionally glutinous rice, mung bean and pork, covered in green leaves, symbolising the Earth, whereas in Korea during Seollal tteokguk (a rice cake soup) is the most representative dish of the holiday.
Lunar New Year has many customs surrounding it, and each country has its own unique traditions. Although, some are fairly common throughout all areas that celebrate Lunar New Year. For example, just over a week before the new year, many people carry out a custom called “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. We’ve put together a guide to the best spots where you can enjoy the festivities.
- Hurstville Lunar New Year Festival (18 January)
- Sydney Lunar Festival (25 January to 9 February)
- Cabramatta Lunar New Year (8-9 February)
- Springvale Lunar New Year Festival (19 January)
- Chinese New Year Festival Melbourne (24 January to 9 February)
- TET Festival (1-2 February)
- Chinese New Year Dragon Boat Festival (8-9 February)
- Lunar New Year (1-2 February)
- Lunar New Year Street Party (1 February)
- Perth Chinese New Year Fair (2 February)
- Lantern Festival (9 February)
- Lunar New Year Festival (27 January)