If halls are decked with holly for Christmas, at the end of January or early February, most of Asia is adorned with red and gold lanterns to ring in the Lunar New Year. The new Lunar year is celebrated at the time of the second new moon after the winter solstice.
The event, which is often touted to be Asia’s biggest party, is celebrated with great pomp and splendor in countries with significant Chinese populations. Various Asian countries like Hong Kong,Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, China, and Taiwan along with Indonesia and Philippines all celebrate the advent of the new Lunar year also known as the Spring Festival or the Lantern Festival.
Each new Lunar year is associated with one of the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac and the fast approaching lunar year is the year of the Monkey.
We in Hong Kong are familiar with the Chinese New Year celebrations and events in our city where the holiday typically extends over three days, but what about the festivities elsewhere in Asia?
Image Source: South China Morning Post 28-01-2016
Multicultural Malaysia is home to a large Chinese community; hence, Chinese New Year counts a one of the country’s biggest festival events. Malls and stores all over the country sport festive décor weeks in advance of the festival.
As the festival, date draws closer Chinese people spring clean and decorate their homes with red and gold lanterns, buntings and duilian or a classic pair of scrolls inscribed with poetry. Families and friends get together for the celebration of Chinese New Year during which they feast on elaborate meals and exchange the traditional red packet called angpau or angpow. Lion dances and firework displays are very much a part of the festival as is the Malaysian tradition of ‘Open House’ when friends and family of all races and religions visit for Chinese homes for the New Year.
The festivities of Chinese New Year extend for 15 days in Malaysia with the first three days of the festival being the most prominent. The 15th day of the festival is known as Chap Goh Mei on this day celebrants decorate their home with lights as another interesting ritual occupies singletons.
Single women who are desirous of finding a groom on this day toss mandarins with their phone numbers inscribed on them into the sea. Young men then try and fish out these oranges to connect with the ladies who toss them.
Singapore’s Chinatown district is the focal point of the island nation’s elaborate Chinese New Year celebrations. Stunning lanterns of every shape and size light up the area a couple of weeks before the festival. Festive bazaars, lion dance and drumming competitions are on the festivity agenda. Another unique event of Singapore’s Chinese New Year celebrations is the Chingay Parade. This massive street parade debuted in 1973. It has grown to become the mainstay of the Chinese New Year celebrations in Singapore. Throngs of revelers line the parade route to take in the routines of performers who hail from Singapore and other parts of the globe. Dancers, floats, stilt walkers and more will feature in the parade, which is scheduled for the 19th and 20th February at the Singapore F1 Pit Building.
Chinese New Year is a major holiday inTaiwan, and the state declares public holidays for a week for the festival. Like in other countries the celebrations in Taiwan feature numerous lanterns, lion dances, fireworks and festivities at the country’s many temples. Major events of the Taiwanese Chinese New Year festivities include the Beehive Fireworks Festival in Tainan and the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival in New Taipei City. The Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival features unique lanterns called Kongming.These lanterns are fashioned with bamboo and oiled rice paper and hold a small candle. The common belief is that these sky lanterns transport your wishes to the gods above, and scores of these lanterns bearing wishes are set off every year.
Image source: courtesy of Americana at Brand
Around 5% of the population of the Philippines is of Chinese descent. Thus,Chinese New Year is a public holiday in the Philippines as well. The Chinese New Year celebrations in the Philippines are similar to those in Hong Kong though the Filipinos who speak the Hokkien dialect of Chinese use the greeting ‘Kiong Hee Huat Tsai’ as they greet friends and family for Chinese New Year. Traditional Chinese New Year foods in the Philippines feature fish, pansit(noodles), boiled dumplings and a sweet sticky rice dish called ‘tikoy.’
The world’s largest Islamic country also has a significant population of Chinese descent. The first day of the Lunar New Year is a public holiday in Indonesia and it is known as ‘Imlek’. Celebrations include lion dances, fireworks and lantern displays and Chinese dance, music and cultural performances. People clean and adorn their homes for the festival as they enjoy celebratory meals with family and friends. Elders of the family distribute ang pao or red packets filled with new currency notes to the younger members. The festival concludes with the celebration of Cap Go Meh in various parts of the country.
The advent of the new Lunar Year also ushers in the Vietnamese New Year called Tet Nguyen Dan or Tet. Tet is the biggest festive occasion in Vietnam and this year the festival dates extend from 6th to the 14th of February. Like in other parts of Asia people believe that the New Year will bring in good luck while driving away the bad luck of the old year. They thus, begin preparations to welcome the new year by cleaning their homes, polishing utensils and decorating their homes with traditional festival blooms like the kumquat tree and peach blossoms and auspicious red and yellow festive accents. Since Tet is a time for family and friends, festive meals are prepared that feature traditional food like boiled chicken, mung bean pudding, Vietnamese sausage, pickled onions, red sticky rice and more. People buy new clothes and shoes for the festival and try and pay off their debts before the advent of the New Year. Exchanging gifts and offering red envelopes with lucky money to children are traditional rituals of the Vietnamese New Year.
Image source: http://www.designbyhumans.com/shop/t-shirt/year-of-the-monkey-2016/180188/