Billions around the world ushered in the Year of the Dragon on Feb. 10, with celebrants across different continents holding their own Lunar New Year festivities.
About the event: The Lunar New Year, celebrated for 15 days, serves as a cultural cornerstone for many Asian communities worldwide. The celebrations foster cultural exchange, strengthen familial bonds and promote understanding and appreciation of diverse traditions. For many who celebrate it, the Year of the Dragon symbolizes a year of vitality, courage and prosperity.
What is common in celebrations: In countries that celebrate the Lunar New Year, people make their way back home to reunite with families and enjoy traditional dishes such as dumplings, rice cake, soup and spring rolls. Gifts are exchanged to strengthen relationships while children receive “lucky money” in red envelopes for good fortune.
Streets in major cities are lit up with cultural shows such as opera and parades, highlighted by lion and dragon dances. Homes and even business establishments are often adorned with red paper cuttings, lanterns and door banners to symbolize good luck and prosperity.
How Asia celebrates it: Despite firework restrictions in some areas in China, celebrations commenced with light shows, parades and temple visits. Even the Shenzhou-17 astronauts currently aboard the Tiangong space station dined on a feast including roast duck, rice cakes, dumplings and soup, among others.
In Hong Kong, seasonal decorations began selling at the Lunar New Year Fair in Causeway Bay’s Victoria Park to adorn homes with flowers, balloons and stuffed animals. The vibrant Lunar New Year parade also made a return to the streets of Hong Kong a
fter a five-year absence.
Meanwhile, families in Taiwan mark the festivities by visiting Buddhist or Taoist temples. Contemporary celebrations see a focus on pineapple cakes and other pineapple-based treats (“pineapple” sounds similar to “prosperity” in Hokkien).
In South Korea, residents welcomed the Seollal (Korean New Year) with vibrant folk performances and ancestral rites. Families enjoyed tteokguk (rice cake soup) and japchae (glass noodle stir-fry), among other traditional dishes.
In Southeast Asia, families in Myanmar, Indonesia and Malaysia enjoyed rice cakes and visited temples to pray for prosperity. The streets in Vietnam came alive for the Tet celebration (Vietnamese Lunar New Year) with Bài Bài (folk games) and colorful kites, while the Philippines’s Binondo district, the world’s oldest Chinatown, similarly held festivities that drew huge crowds of Filipino Chinese communities. The Chinese community in Singapore is also set to hold the popular Chingay Parade on Feb. 23-24, which is highlighted by colorful floats, dance performances and other traditional art.
The rest of the world takes part in celebrations: In Sydney, Parramatta’s Lunar New Year festivities kicked off in Parramatta Square and Centenary Square where decorations, pop up markets and art installations are set up. In London’s Trafalgar Square, festivities held by the London Chinatown Chinese Community Centre involved cultural performances and food stalls serving a variety of Asian delicacies. Similar celebrations involving traditional Chinese opera performances are held in Chinatowns in Lima, Peru and Lagos, Nigeria.
Asian communities in North America: Canada’s diverse communities celebrated the Lunar New Year, highlighted by the lion dances in Kensington Market, Korean drum shows in North York, Toronto and a New Year Parade in Vancouver, BC.
New York City’s Chinatown hosted a massive Lunar New Year parade this year, featuring a vibrant display of floats, dancers and music. The celebrations were just as vibrant in San Francisco and other parts of the U.S.
, with Chinatown community centers hosting cultural workshops and performances.
As celebrations continue, communities around the world look forward to the Lantern Festival, the culmination of the 15-day celebration. Celebrated with the display of colorful lanterns, the upcoming festival marks a time for reflection and hope. Individuals light and release these lanterns, (into the sky or onto bodies of water), as a gesture of letting go of past burdens and embracing the promise of new beginnings.