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. 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?
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. This year is the Year of the Pig, with 2019 said to be a year of fortune and luck.
There are several festivals and events that occur over the course of Lunar New Year. The most important festival is the Lantern Festival, which takes place on 19 February this year. The Lantern Festival marks the end of the Lunar New 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 eat fish and vegetable salads, as well as small rice balls, called tangyuan or yuanxiao. 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. Fish is usually one of the dishes served, 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 “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.
- Sydney Lunar Festival (1-10 February)
- Chatswood Year of the Pig Festival (29 January to 19 February)
- Hurstville Lunar New Year Festival (2 February)
- Cabramatta Lunar New Year (16 & 17 February)
- Guinness World Records title for the Largest Yum Cha Meal (Tuesday, 5 February)
- Chinese New Year Festival Melbourne (2-17 February)
- Chinese New Year Club Dragon Boat Regatta (17 February)
- Box Hill Chinese New Year Festival (2 February)
- Point Cook Lunar New Year Festival (16 February)
- Springvale Lunar New Year Festival (3 February)
- Chinese Lunar New Year in Chinatown Mall (9-10 February)
- Chinatown Adelaide Lunar New Year Street Party (9 February)
- Chinese New Year at National Multicultural Festival (15-17 February)
- Chinese Lantern Festival (23 February)
- Chinese New Year Festival at Darwin Turf Club (22-24 February)