Chinese settlers have been populating far corners of the world since early 19th century and today have become an integral part of the western community as well as down under. The world’s most populous and advance cities have embraced the cultural traditions of the Chinese diaspora over decades of immersion. The biggest festival in the Chinese calendar is celebrated with equal zeal as it would be in mainland China. If you aren’t travelling to Shanghai or Beijing during the Lunar New Year fret not as these cities will have you joining the culture frenzy in no time.
Probably the most opulent of Lunar New Year celebration outside China, Singapore jumps to the occasion to go Crimson quite literally. Owing to the influence of Chinese settlers since its founding years, the Golden Jubilee nation plans a three-week long festivity. This year 2600 lanterns have decorated the streets of Singapore depicting the Year of the Monkey and other mythical creatures from the Chinese Zodiac. Top restaurants are being reserved at a lightning pace and the shopping arcades on Orchard street as well as Chinatown are buzzing with fashion-forward shoppers. If you are visiting Singapore during the festive season beginning February until Valentine’s Day you are in for nothing short of a spectacle.
Must Visit –
River Hongbao on the Marina Bay for the opening ceremony of the Lunar New Year filled with sounds and visuals of the dancing lions, dragons and other mythical creatures. An absolute favourite event among foodies to experience an array of traditional foods to exotic dishes at the largest Food Street. 6 February 2016
Chingay Parade by the Marina Bay Waterfront is Asian spin to Mardi Gras carnival. A cacophony of colours, music and dances this is the ultimate celebratory event during the festival. This is a theatrical display of Singapore’s multicultural prowess in the continent with decorated floats, dancers and dragons swinging through the parade. 19 – 20, February 2016
Where to eat? Chinatown Food Street to wander along the streets of Chinatown for the best street food. Do not miss out on trying some local favourites like the Chili Crab, Fish Head Curry and Hainese Chicken Rice at Maxwell Food Centre. Hong Lim Food Centre and Tiong Bahru Market are just one of the many popular yet local food markets for the iconic street food of Singapore.
Where to Shop? Chinatown is known for its dingy bylanes and hawkers is also famous for artefacts shopping and cultural souvenirs. This is the neighbourhood to be a part of the local fanfare and immerse into the traditional exchanges of the festival.
Known to paint the town red quite literally for the Lunar New Year – Sydney Opera House and the city in general lights up in rouge to mark the 20th anniversary of the city’s festive celebration. Being in Sydney for the Chinese New Year, is a treat for every traveller and foodie, as the city is set to throw itself into the characteristic traits of the ‘Monkey’ – playfully curious and fun loving. Around 70 events have been planned in the city including 12 huge Lunar Lanterns displayed at iconic spots, Lunar feasts, Dragon boat races, Lunar markets and the works. The city down under is not ‘monkeying’ around (pun absolutely intended) when they say “Its a party!” until 21 February.
Must Visit – Chinese New Year Markets in Sydney’s Chinatown district will be the most popular place to be and be seen. Market City in Haymarket has a variety show to offer whi Shaanxi Cultural Market at World Square is a pop up market inspired by the Qin Dynasty immersing visitors in the Shaanxi cultural heritage, Sydney Morning Herald Lunar Market by The Star will be a pop-up market for fun, food, shopping and entertainment at the Pyrmont Bay Park. These pop-up markets open from 6 February.
Painting the Town Red is being organised by Westpac to bring in the New Year by illuminating the iconic Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and others with the auspicious colour in Chinese culture – Red. 6 – 8 February.
Chinese Gardens tour will showcase the Chinese art of gardening and its historic and cultural significance. The 35 minute guided tour at the Garden of Friendship is held between 6 to 21 February twice in a day. If you are travelling with kids the Art of Penjing workshop helps kids learn about the ancient art of miniature gardening in southern China. 6 and 7 February at Chinese Garden of Friendship.
The Monkey represents fun and nothing says fun like the Dragon Boat Races in ancient Chinese culture. On 20 and 21 February, 3000 paddlers will compete in Australia’s largest boat race held at Cockle Bay Wharf. Drums pounding, crowds cheering and hearts racing during the captivating event when the sailing dragons brave each other through the waves. Be one of the fortunate few to cheer on the competitors from the pontoon and meet St George’s happy dragon who will be the main cheering mascot.
Where to eat? The Galleries has a line up of tasteful menu and desserts beginning 4 February. With a great view of the Sydney Opera House in the background Cafe Mix at Shangri-La Hotel has a Chinese high tea and a buffet lunch crafted specially for the festivity from 6 – 13 February. Feast at Sheraton on The Park on Elizabeth Street has an entire month dedicated to celebrate the Lunar festival with traditional recipes. While visiting the Westpac Lunar Lantern Hub do stopover at the world’s smallest bar – Monkey Shoulder Whisky Bar serving some delicious concoctions inspired by the Chinese festival.
The San Francisco Bay Area may be in the news for its tech startups and acquisitions however it is one of the most varied in community. San Francisco has always been known for its Chinese community owing to the 19th-century railroads and dam construction in the state. It’s Chinatown is largest and oldest in North America and the Year of the Monkey is ready to roll out the goodies all over the neighbourhood.
Must Visit – Southwest Airline Chinese New Year Parade has been ranked among the top 10 parades in the world by IFEA. This year the parade is held on 20 February and is a display of showmanship extraordinaire. Floats snaking the streets of San Francisco’s Market Street where the parade will originate at 5 pm PDT and conclude at Columbus Avenue. Dancing lions, Dragon floats, costume dancers, acrobats, stilt walkers and marching bands all proceeding with pomp and glory to celebrate the most festive event of the Chinese calendar.
Where to eat? Chinese New Year concert and Imperial Dinner, Hakkasan, Koi Palace
Where to shop? Chinatown Community Street Fair is a jamboree of 80 booths perfect for the shopaholic and foodie alike.
Where to stay? Loews Regency San Francisco, Taj Campton Place, The Ritz – Carlton San Francisco
For more details please visit ChineseParade.com
The biggest Chinese celebration in Europe, London is set to bathe in red on 14 February at Trafalgar Square.
Must Visit – The grand Lunar New Year Parade will begin with 10 lion dance teams, elaborately decorated floats and lanterns swinging along. The parade heads along Charing Cross Road and reaches Chinatown where it concludes into a big dining party with as many 17 cuisine stalls to select from. Through the day there will be stage performances at Trafalgar Square by Lion and dragon dancers, Szechuan Opera and live performances with firecrackers as the grand finale.
Where to eat? Hutong on the 33 level at The Shard with the best view of London, Michelin Star restaurant Yauatcha, Feng Shang Princess at Regent’s Park