So, Chinese New Year (CNY) is just around the corner. If you are a traveler from other continents out of Asia, you probably might not have heard of this festival before. You might ask, so what’s all the fuss about?
Also known as Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival, CNY is declared as a national public holiday in countries where a sizable Chinese population resides. In case of Southeast Asia countries, it is most commonly found in Singapore, China and Malaysia (prominently in Kuala Lumpur and Penang).
Usually, the celebration will start from the New Year’s Eve and will last for around 15 days until the middle of the first month. People will be engage in spring cleaning before the actual celebrations. CNY holds a significant meaning as it symbolizes reunion and the sign of a new year. Therefore, families usually gather for their reunion dinner, with steamboat being the most popular choice.
In the year of 2015, it is the Year of the Sheep and New Year will fall on 19 February, Thursday (Woohoo!)
A day at Chinatown
Ushering in the Year of Sheep
Before the arrival of CNY, you can find crowds and crowds of Singaporeans at Chinatown, an ethnic neighborhood which features distinctly Chinese cultural elements. There you will find Singaporeans shopping for New Year goodies and traditional decorations like Chinese calligraphy and paper cutting.
Besides shopping at Chinatown, Singaporeans celebrate at Chingay, which is the largest annual street performance and float parade in Asia. A unique festival that is only found in the little red dot, it consists of colorful floats, a wide span of multicultural performances and fireworks to kick-start the New Year.
Similarly, for those who fancy other more sightseeing may want to visit The River Hongbao on the Marina Bay Floating Platform and the Esplanade Waterfront Promenade. This lively festival offers yet another special Chinese cultural experience; A series of fringe activities, ranging from amusement rides to carnival games and handicraft workshops will certainly keep you busy the whole night.
The River Hongbao
CNY in Vietnam is known as Tet Nguyen Dan, or Tet for short. The celebration may last up to 7 days as Tet occupies an important role in Vietnamese’s religious beliefs. Besides welcoming the New Year with their family, Tet is the occasion for Vietnamese to express their respect and remembrance for their ancestors. Interestingly, Vietnamese feel that their actions on the dawn of Tet will determine their fate for the whole year. Therefore, they will always smile and behave as nice as they can in the hope for a better year.
In Vietnam, there is no short of exciting street performances and celebrations too. What Tet differs from the celebrations in Singapore and China is the types of food. Their New Year goodies definitely stands out among the crowd as it is not the usual local pastries to be found. Their goodies consist of Bánh chưng (a traditional Vietnamese rice cake made from glutinous rice, mung beans, pork and other ingredients), chả giò, and xoi (sticky rice which symbolizes the luck and new achievement).
Bánh chưng and Xoi
San Francisco, USA
Lion dance performance at the parade
The San Francisco Chinese New Year Festival and Parade is held for approximately 2 weeks at Chinatown right after the first day of the CNY. First held in 1858, the festival remains one of the oldest and largest event out of Asia, and the largest Asian cultural event in North America. The parade route begins on Market Street and terminates in Chinatown. At first glance, it may seem just like any other typical American parade. But it certainly does not pale in comparison with the celebrations in Asia. On the contrary, the festival boasts of a Flower Market Fair to a Chinatown Run, a Miss Chinatown Pageant and the famous Parade (with amazing lion dance performances).
Having learnt all that about Chinese New Year, I wish you all a happy Chinese New Year!
(Featured image credits: photographpaul)