Lunar New Year is one of the most important events of the year for many Asian cultures. It's also one of the most wonderful times to visit places where the new year is celebrated.
The streets are filled with festive decorations – mostly red and gold lanterns or decorations representing the animals of the Chinese Zodiac. Bright, colourful lion dancers perform in the streets and shops, the pulsing beats and rhythms reverberating through the city well into the night. To top it all off, the tantalising smells of special meals float through the air, a promise of the feast to come when families and friends join together.
Here are our top picks for where to join in the Lunar New Year festivities around the world.
Singapore’s Chinatown is already a must-see for anyone visiting Singapore, and this is even more true during the 6 weeks of New Year festivities.
The streets are lined with vibrant lanterns and luminous decorations, many the bright red that is considered very lucky at this time of year. Enjoy a diverse and interactive program of events, performances and market stalls filled with delicious food and trinkets to welcome in the Year of the Dragon.
The annual Chingay Parade features dazzling floats, dragon dancing and traditional performances from Singapore’s multicultural communities.
Fiona Lu from Brisbane Airport Corporation has many wonderful memories of Singapore, especially during the Lunar New Year.
"I will always strongly recommend Singapore to my friends and family. Lunar New Year is an explosion of colour, fireworks and festivals. Joining the Chinese New Year celebration in Chinatown, you will see red and gold lanterns everywhere and marvel at the statues and decorations depicting the Year of the Rabbit."
Malaysia boasts a significant population of Chinese descent, which means the Lunar New Year is celebrated throughout the country. A visit to Kuala Lumpur at this time guarantees city streets covered in lanterns, the cracking sounds of fireworks and roving lion dances.
A top tip is to visit the Thean Hou Temple, which will be decorated with thousands of red lanterns that light up at night. An amazing sight to see!
Brisbane Airport's Fletcher McCaffery has been in Malaysia during the Lunar New Year a few times, and recommends heading to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (Malaysian Borneo) to soak up the atmosphere.
"Head to the bustling pasar malam (night markets) on Jalan Segama and Jalan Gaya. Here you will find a huge selection of stalls selling traditional CNY snacks such as kuih kapit (or love letters – a thin waffle made from coconut milk, sesame and rice flour), nastar (pineapple tart), bak kwa (charcoal grilled beef or pork jerky blended with local spices) and nyonya kuih (small colourful cakes with a range of textures and flavours such as pandan, rose syrup, coconut sugar)."
Chinese New Year often coincides with the tail end of the local fruit season in Sabah, making it the perfect time to sample some of the world’s rarest tropical fruits like wild durian, or Durian Hutan, which comes in almost alien looking hues of neon pink, yellow and green.
After filling up on all the local CNY treats, be sure to take a walk to nearby Wisma Merdeka and take in the massive floor to ceiling sea of red and gold adornments on display.
You could go anywhere in China during the Lunar New Year and have an unforgettable experience witnessing and participating in the celebrations. But what could be more iconic than being at the Forbidden City in Beijing for Lunar New Year?
By day, you can visit the Forbidden City, admire the New Year decorations and learn about how the emperors traditionally welcomed the new year. By night, the ancient buildings are illuminated by lanterns and fireworks.
Edward Li, from Brisbane Airport Corporation, has vivid memories of his visits to the Forbidden City during the New Year festivities.
“I would visit the Forbidden City each year with my family to welcome in the New Year, as a lot of families do. The Forbidden City is adorned with beautiful decorations. The lovely palace lanterns and exquisite New Year pictures present the customs of Chinese New Year celebrations in the imperial palace."
We would also visit the Ditan Temple Fair - one of the biggest and most popular temple fairs, featuring traditional snacks, handicrafts, a variety of performances, hundreds of stalls selling local snacks, antiques and curios and a whole lot of people.“
Top it all off by a Chinese banquet, or better yet some delicious, authentic Peking Duck and a Northern Hotpot.
Hong Kong is known for its large public New Year celebrations, such as the Chinese New Year Parade at Tsim Sha Tsui and the fireworks over Victoria Harbour. This year, there is a range of events planned to celebrate 2024 and welcome in the Year of the Dragon.
Other New Year traditions in Hong Kong include a visit to the Flower Market and the Chinese New Year Race Day at Sha Tin Racecourse – an event which rivals Melbourne Cup.
For one of the biggest Lunar New Year festivities outside of Asia, look no further than San Francisco and its Chinese New Year Parade!
Formed in the 1860’s, following the arrival of Chinese people seeking fortune during the Gold Rush, the original Chinese New Year Parade aimed to share Chinese culture with the local community. Its success led to the event evolving into a month long celebration that includes street fairs, a basketball jamboree, a public art project and the Miss Chinatown USA Pageant.
The highlight is still the Chinese New Year Parade, which has become such a beloved event by locals and visitors alike that it takes over 2 hours from start to finish!
With Lunar New Year now celebrated all around the world, you can take part in festivities in some unexpected places, such as Paris.
Hanh Trang, another Brisbane Airport Corporation team member, enjoys the ability to acknowledge her own culture and traditions at the same time as visiting a country with different cultural and historical icons.
"In the peak of winter in Paris, I’ve seen it come alive with lunar new year festivities in the 13th arrondissement filled with bright decorations, parades, lion dancing and exhibitions. Pockets of central Paris also host and celebrate too (3rd and 4th arrondissement). It was also memorable to see the Eiffel tower, the Louvre museum and then celebrate lunar new year all in the same weekend."
There are many ways to welcome the Year of the Rabbit in Brisbane. The Lunar New Year celebrations in Fortitude Valley are a highlight of the BrisAsia Festival with a vibrant program of performances, traditional lion and dragon dancing and cultural workshops.
The southern suburb of Sunnybank is also well-known for its Lunar New Year celebrations, in recognition of the diverse Asian cultural backgrounds in its local community. Head to Sunnybank for the best range and choice of Asian cuisine in all of Brisbane.
As an Aussie girl of mixed European ancestry, Julie Leung, from Brisbane Airport Corporation, didn’t grow up celebrating Lunar New Year. But after marrying into a family from Hong Kong, it is now one of the most special family events of the year.
“It's very important to celebrate the Lunar New Year as a way of introducing the vibrant Chinese traditions to my children. They love this time of year! My son has his own lion dancing costume and drum, and dreams of performing with the lion dancers when he is older.
The Leungs celebrate by eating Chinese banquet, watching lion dancing and visiting the Chung Tian Buddhist Temple.
No matter how you welcome in the Year of the Dragon, we wish you a healthy and prosperous year ahead.