Gong Xi Fa Chai! Chinese New Year is a time of year I remember with fondness. (During my first trip to Asia, I landed in Kuala Lumpur a few days before Chinese New Year. I still remember the lanterns, lights and mesmerizing red decorations.)
Chinese New Year marks the celebration of the Lunar New Year (based on the cycles of the moon) and following a 12 year cycle corresponding to the Chinese zodiac. 2015 is the Year of the Goat. These will be the Zodiac animals for the next few years.
- 2016 - Monkey
- 2017 - Rooster
- 2018 - Dog
Preparing for the Lunar New Year
To prepare for the Lunar New Year, the house is thoroughly cleaned and decorated with red lanterns, couplets (banners with phrases that are hung from door frames), and paper cutouts. During the days leading up to the New Year, families are busy shopping to prepare for the festivities. It is traditional to purchase New clothing and, or course, red is the color of choice for cheongsam (traditional dresses and Changshan (long traditional shirts).
How the Lunar New Year is Celebrated
The extended family gathers for dinner. Children receive red envelopes with money for good luck. Just as Dick Clarke's New Year's Eve Special is traditional in North America, Chinese families around the world watch the annual Chinese New Year Gala broadcast by China Central Television (CCTV). At midnight, there are firecrackers and fireworks. The next week is a holiday and, in countries with large Chinese populations, many businesses are closed.
On the first day of the New Year, traditionally there were parades that include lion or dragon dancers. On the 15th day of the New Year, the lantern festival marks the end of Lunar New Year celebrations.
Celebrations in the U.S., Canada and Europe
If travel to Asia is not in the budget, there are still many opportunities to get inspiration from Chinese New Year for Asian themed events. In Paris,Chinese New Year events took place in the 13th arrondissement's Chinese Quarter. In Rome, Chinese New Year festivities were held on Via dei Fori Imperiali. Honolulu and San Francisco have large Chinese New Year celebrations.
From Shanghai to Singapore to San Francisco, festivities continued all over the world throughout the weekend. In Toronto, there was dancing and martial arts demonstrations on the streets of Chinatown and the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto had festive food, theater, and calligraphy on Saturday. In London, celebrations always take place on the Sunday following Chinese New Year. In New York City, the Chinese New Year Parade also takes place on Sunday.
Inspiration for Asian Themed Events
Some of the elements for creating Asian themed events inspired by Chinese New Year include:
- Colors: Red and Gold
- Decorations: Red lanterns, gold coins, dragons, banners with the Zodiac animal for the year
- Entertainment: Dragon dance, lion dance, acrobats, jugglers, drumming, bamboo flute music
- Crowd Pleasers: Fireworks, fire blowers, firecrackers
- Menu Suggestions: Fish and chicken (served whole), long noodles, Jai, rice cake, pomelos, bowls of Mandarin oranges, tray of togetherness with 8 compartments for snacks
Where to Purchase Decorations
Any major city with a Chinatown will have an abundance of supplies and decorations for Chinese New Year. Walmart in the U.S. and Canada has a variety of decorations including lanterns and the red money envelopes that can be purchased at retail outlets or ordered online. In fact, Walmart Canada issues Chinese New Year flyers in major urban centers and suburbs with a large Chinese population.
For more ideas for Asian themed events also consult 4 Innovative Asian Concepts to Inspire Meeting Planners and 4 Interactive Attractions to Explore Asia's Rich Cultural Heritage.
Photo Credit: Choo Yut Shing