Chinese New Year Celebrations around the World
Chinese people leave their footprints around the world, and they bring Chinese culture to every corner of the planet. The most important traditional festival, Chinese New Year, aka Spring Festival, also becomes an international celebration, especially in Southeast Asia areas where enormous Chinese population takes a deep root. So far, there are about 15 countries setting the Spring Festival as the one of their public holidays. Some Chinese festival customs and activities are inherited, and some develops into their unique celebrations and practices.
Hong Kong and Macau maintain the Spring Festival, and people have three or five days off the work. In recent years, the traditional Spring Festival couplets have been abandoned, and people use a vertical four-character scroll named Huichun to replace that, which implies the same wish for wealth and health. After the reunion dinner at the Chinese New Year's Eve, all the family members will hang out at the flower market to buy peach blossom, daffodil or cumquat. In next day's morning, local people, especially seniors, will strive to be the first to attend the temple fair to pray for a prosperity and health. When visiting friends and relatives, they also give Lishi (red envelopes) to kids to sharing blessing. Usually, there is an annual firework show coming around the second or third day of Lunar New Year.
Separated only by one strait, the traditions of Spring Festival in Taiwan are very similar to that in Fujian Province in Chinese mainland. Most customs are still kept, like pasting couplets, wearing new clothes and giving lucky money, but people there also have their own way of celebration. On the lunar Dec. 16, the festivity has started with the worshiping the God of the Earth, which stands for the end of a whole year working. Most companies will give banquets for their employees on that day to show thanks. The reunion dinner at the New Year's Eve is called Weilu, which means seating around the stove. The main course is hotpot with fish balls, meat balls and mustard and leeks, which imply wishes for family harmony and long life span. Behind the main gate, two sugarcanes are placed on each side, which indicates promoting to a higher position.
About 70 percent of Singapore populations are composed of Chinese or Chinese-Singapore citizen. The ways of observing the festival changes a bit in Singapore, but most traditions are kept. On the New Year's Eve, a lot of sashimi in slice or chips with other vegetables and meats is prepared on the table. When all the family members take their seats, they begin to rival to each other to pick up the sashimi. If they hold the meat higher, it means they will gain more in the coming year. For the public activity, people usually flock to Kreta Ayer Square for the street bazaar, Chingay Parade, stilt walkers, dragon and lion dances.
The most popular festival gift should be oranges, which is an omen of jubilance. When visiting relatives and friends, Singapore people will take two oranges in a box as gift, and the hosts will also present two in return. People maintain the tradition of wearing new clothes and hats, and they even change new sheets and quilts.
Near the Spring Festival, all the commercial area will be decorated with lanterns, cherry blossoms and oranges in the capital city, Kuala Lumpur, and the festival atmosphere can be sensed everywhere. The largest festivity takes place in Kuala Lumpur, and there may be 30 million people would take part in the celebrations. Besides, among all the festival items, the pineapples are the most popular gifts, for people believed that this fruit can bring good luck. People will also buy the winter-sweet home, which is one of the best omens for bliss. During the Lunar New Year, there is an annual calligraphy competition that allows everyone to take part in.
There are about 100 million people enjoying the festival in Philippines, and Chinese Spring Festival is most important festival for Filipino-Chinese. Most Chinese come from Fujian Province of China, so practices of celebration resemble a lot. The rice cake, also called Niangao, is served as the staple food. On the first New Year Day, people will not cook but eat the leftovers of the last day instead. It is said that such doing makes them have more than they need. Apart from the most common-seen customs like giving red envelopes, lion and dragon dances, local people will hang eight round-shaped fruits in their house for decoration, including pineapple, orange, apple, grape, mango, lemon, watermelon and papaya.
In Vietnam, the lunar calendar is also widely used, and the festival time is the same with China. Unlike the festival is celebrated only in Chinese quarters of western countries, Lunar New Year, called Tet in Vietnamese, has developed into a national holiday for all the citizens. The customs of celebration varies a lot from China. Zongzi is the main festival food, which is a kind of round or square shaped glutinous rice wrapped in reed or bamboo leaves. They would buy the peach blossom to ward off the evil spirit and cumquat pot plants to pray for fortune. Vietnamese have a special tradition called Xong Tet, which refers the good or bad luck brought by the first visitor. The first visitor's personality and life condition forebodes the host's luck in the coming year, so usually before the Tet, people will invite an honest, decent or rich man to come for a visit.
It is roughly estimated that about 2.7 million Chinese people are living in California, San Francisco, New York, Seattle and Washington of USA. The festival is mainly celebrated in Chinese people quarters and communities, and the traditions and customs also become simplified. People get holidays for togetherness with families, and the event that westerners can also enjoy is the parade for lantern or flower show in the Lantern Festival, together with the dragon and lion dances sometimes. Especially in the oldest Chinatown of San Francisco, the parade is usually held in Grant Avenue and Kearny Street in a big way. People carry colorful banners, drums and firecrackers to liven up the festival atmosphere.
The festival is grand in Vancouver and Toronto, where many people of Chinese extraction are clustered. The festival activities usually include street parade, traditional music concert, festival featuring dancing, traditional costumes, firework show, food stalls and some other arts exhibits. During the holiday, most Chinese shops, companies and restaurants will be closed because people will go for the festivities. Meanwhile, some streets and blocks will also be shut so as the celebration activities are given enough space.
London claims that they host the largest Chinese New Year celebration outside Asia. Actually, it is truth that the festival becomes bigger in a country with such a significant Chinese population. It is observed annually throughout Chinatown, Leicester and Trafalgar Square. Chinese communities are usually sponsored to hold the parades and other celebrations. The festivities also arouse local people’s interest and motivate them to take part in. Traditional Chinese music and dance show, various Chinese cuisines, displays of culture and arts, lanterns and fireworks make the city imbued with antique of ancient China.
In the Chinatown in Sidney, the participants of Chinese New Year celebration may number over 600,000 in the peak time. The festivities incorporate vibrant markets, food stalls in the street, parade in costumes, traditional opera performances, dragon and lion dances. Lantern and firework show are highlights in the whole observance.