If the popping of firecrackers doesn’t give it away, the swathes of red and gold should. In state capitals and major towns all around Australia, in mid-February the streets will come alive with markets, parades and lion dancing to celebrate Chinese New Year.
Marking the beginning of spring and the start of the new lunar year, celebrations usually kick off the night before the Chinese New Year and last about 15 days. In 2018, the new year falls on February 16th and welcomes the zodiac year of the Dog. Unlike the Western Gregorian calendar which revolves around the sun, China follows a lunar cycle. This means Chinese New Year falls on a different date every year, always on the first new moon after the winter solstice, landing between the 21st of January and 21st of February.
With a strong and significant historical presence in multi-cultural Australia, dating back to the Gold Rush era, Chinese New Year is an important cultural event nation-wide. Being part of the festival is really special and usually free, with loads of activities perfect for kids. The atmosphere is joyful and exciting – family, good fortune, happiness and prosperity are the central messages of the celebrations, symbolised by the pervasive colour red.
If you live in Sydney, you can join one of the biggest celebrations of Chinese New Year outside Asia. The opening night of the festival launches with a literal bang, as red and gold fireworks illuminate the sky above the harbour. Circular Quay glows with the soft light of lunar lanterns representing each sign of the Chinese animal zodiac. Darling Harbour beats with the sound of drums during thrilling dragon boat races. The Rocks shakes and shimmies with performances and demonstrations of traditional Chinese opera, Korean drumming, Japanese hip-hop, tai chi and kung fu. This Lunar Spectacular Show takes place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights between February 16th and 25th from 5pm in Bligh and Barney Reserve. Much of the merriment centres on Chinatown in Sydney CBD, but there is plenty happening in Chatswood, Parramatta, Eastwood and Cabramatta, for example.
Melbourne puts on a party to rival Sydney’s, commencing with the Dragon’s Awakening Ceremony on Sunday 18th in China Town. A flurry of Chinese opera, chess competitions, calligraphy stalls, dragon parades, lion dancing and delicious food follows. In Perth, the festival is celebrated on the 18th of February in Northbridge with the Chinese New Year Fair. On the same day in Hobart, the Parliament House lawns are buzzing with revellers and in Brisbane, a day earlier on the 17th, pop in to the Chinatown Mall to enjoy celebrations.