Whether you know the Lunar New Year as Tet, or Seollal, or Chinese New Year, the beginning of the lunar calendar is a time for new beginnings and fresh starts for everyone. To celebrate the start of the Year of the Rat, we’ve picked the most gorgeous of this year’s Lunar New Year celebrations – from extravagant street parades and raucous day parties that carry into the night to illuminated, life-sized lanterns and stunning pyrotechnic displays. Here’s how the world is saying goodbye to the Year of the Pig – and, most importantly, all of the evil spirits that came with it.
The world’s most beautiful Chinese New Year celebrations
Every year Singapore hosts a kaleidoscopic street parade called Chingay, which translates as ‘the art of costume and masquerade’. Basically, it’s a massive street parade fitted out with dazzling floats, colourful costumes, live performances, intricate props, and pyrotechnics. Themed ‘Colours in Harmony’ as a homage to the city’s rich multiculturalism and diversity, this year’s highlights include a traditional dragon dance performed on an 11-foot rotating see-saw, remote-controlled LED flying dragons and lion dance performances incorporating giant balloons. ‘Wow’ is the only fitting response.
See our full guide to Chinese New Year in Singapore.
Every year Yuyuan Gardens draws millions of visitors to Shanghai for its world-class lantern display. The luminous creations come in all different shapes, sizes, and colours, depicting everything from fish (representing wealth and prosperity) to dragons (to represent good luck) – and, of course, rats. There’s even a series of lanterns scrawled with riddles and puns for those wanting to flex their brain muscles in front of friends and family.
What do 600,000 firecrackers crackling in the sky sound like? Exactly like the banishment of an entire city’s worth of evil spirits (and boy, does NYC have a few). Every year, herds of New Yorkers head to Sara D. Roosevelt Park for the traditional firecracker release in order to ward off the bad omens of the past year. Those who still have their eardrums in check should join the lion dancing and parades to carry them into the streets of Chinatown afterwards.
See our full guide to Lunar New Year in New York.
During Lunar New Year (or Seollal, as Koreans call it), the bustling city of Seoul becomes relatively quiet as people head back home to celebrate with their families. But every year, Seoul’s Korean Folk Village holds a Fortune Party where visitors can play folk games and check out traditional music and art. Amongst other traditions, this year’s festivities include daljiptaeugi (ritual burning to bring upon good harvest and peace), horseback martial arts and the sharing of tteokguk: traditional rice cake soup.
This year, Los Angeles’s historic Golden Dragon Parade is 121 years old – making it even older than the Hollywood sign. Falling on February 1, this year’s parade is set to draw in hundreds of thousands of festival goers as they sprawl along North Broadway to witness a celebration of culture, history, and tradition as floats, marching bands and costumes pass them by.
See our full guide to Chinese New Year in Los Angeles.
This year, Hanoi is set to welcome Tet (the Vietnamese word for Lunar New Year) with 30 firework shows across the nation’s capital. They span from Lac Long Quan Flower Garden to Van Quan Lake, but the biggest and brightest of these pyrotechnic displays is always at the central Hoan Kiem Lake. Kicking off at midnight on January 24, the fifteen-minute light show will be preceded by music and art performances, as the festivities prepare revellers to bid farewell to the Year of the Pig and all it’s bad luck and evils.
Manchester is home to one of the UK’s largest and oldest Chinese communities, so it seems only fitting that its celebrations are some of the best in Europe. St Ann’s Square in the city centre will be home to a 50-foot golden dragon sculpture on January 25 and 26, while the city’s famous 175-foot dragon will parade down the city’s streets towards Chinatown on January 26. There’ll also be traditional lion and ribbon dances, Chinese Opera performers, giant buddha dolls and a Chinese Scout parade.
The Spring Festival Parade marks Lunar New Year with a celebration of Vancouver’s multiculturalism, starring a 3,000 large procession including reps from the Canadian city’s many communities. Ringing in its 47th year, the parade always draws huge crowds as it makes its way from Millennium Gate towards Chinatown. This year there’ll be a dazzling display of traditional lion dances, cultural dance troupes and martial arts performances.
Thean Hou Temple is one of Malaysia’s largest and oldest temples. Adorned in hundreds of glowing red lanterns, this majestic six-tiered temple draws in thousands of festivalgoers annually to celebrate the new year. This year, to ring in the Year of the Rat, Thean Hou will be home to a pair of gigantic mice sculptures each standing within a bucket of rice. Representing the idea that the mice are never short of food, these sculptures greet visitors with well wishes of abundant wealth, food and dignity for the year ahead.
Technically a whole other city, Yokohama in Greater Tokyo is chaotic even without a global celebration like Lunar New Year. Throw that in the mix and you've got a riotous couple of weeks in Japan’s biggest Chinatown.To celebrate the 34th year of the Chinese Spring Festival event, the district will be hosting activities and installations including a massive countdown party on January 24; a parade of performers in historic costumes on January 26; and a traditional Cai Qing Lion Dance on January 25, where red envelopes called hongbao are fed to the lion to bring good luck in the coming year.
Taking place slap bang in the middle of Chinatown, Chicago’s annual Lunar New Year parade carries marchers on a half-mile route to the finish line on Cermak Road. It takes place on February 2, when a herd of spectators are set to follow a trail of marching bands, colourful floats and traditional lion dances as they parade throughout the Chinatown precinct to ring in the Year of the Rat.
See our full guide to Chinese New Year in Chicago.
The Lunar New Year celebrations in London are among the biggest outside of Asia. On January 26, the day-long celebration runs throughout the West End and Chinatown before ending at the city’s most recognisable public space: Trafalgar Square. The festivities kick off with a ceremonial painting of dots on to the lion costume’s face to symbolise life-giving. Then there’s a full day of traditional dragon and flying lion dances, Chinese dance and music shows, martial arts displays and, of course, a mouthwatering selection of street food.
See our full guide to Chinese New Year in London.