THE Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival in China, is celebrated for 16 days, starting with New Year’s Eve and culminating in the Lantern Festival. Each of the 16 days symbolises something different to welcome in a prosperous, plentiful and lucky New Year.
As it’s a lunar festival, the date of Chinese New Year changes annually and this year it falls on Monday, February 8.
Sam Wong, patron of the ACT Chinese Australian Association, says there will be many celebrations happening all over Canberra, including spectacular traditional colourful lion dances held from February 5-14 at various locations around town.
“In particular, the lion dancing that will be on the forecourt of Parliament House on February 9 will be worth attending, as it’s the first time Chinese New Year has been celebrated there and it’s a free event arranged through the Australian Parliamentary Friendship Group with China,” he says.
At the National Multicultural Festival (February 12-14), the Chinese Spring Festival celebrations will take place on Sunday, February 14, which will also feature lion dancing, as well as community performances and martial arts.
This year is the Year of the Monkey, which is the ninth in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac, so monkey symbols will feature heavily in New Year decorations.
John Wong, vice-president of the Australian Chinese Catholic Community, says that the Chinese New Year celebrations start on New Year’s Eve – Sunday, February 7 this year – with a traditional family reunion dinner.
“Family always has to come together for New Year’s Eve, and we have fish, which symbolises plenty, and dumplings, which symbolise being reunited back together,” he says.
“We would also make a lot of Chinese festive food, including a Chinese cake often made from radish, depending on the region, to eat on New Year’s Day to symbolise prosperity.”
John says that in the morning on New Year’s Day, it’s traditional for the children to pay respects to their parents and wish them Happy New Year before doing anything else.
“Traditionally, New Year’s Day is reserved for close family only, and we share a meal together,” he says.
“After the feast, we often give red packets or red envelopes containing money to the children. It’s usual to only give red packets once you are married, and it’s like pocket money for them, to spend or save as they wish. It’s believed to bring good luck.
“On the second day we would visit relatives and friends, and on the third day it’s recovery day, because you will have been eating and celebrating a lot.
“So you stay home so you don’t get into any arguments!”
The Lantern Festival is the final event of Chinese New Year and can be celebrated at the Beijing Garden, Lennox Gardens in Yarralumla.
The garden will be decorated with Chinese lanterns and lights, with performances of Chinese traditional music, children’s dances, martial arts, lion dance, a hand-made lantern competition and a lantern parade. Bring your own lanterns or buy one there.
Saturday, February 27, 6pm-9pm, at Beijing Garden, Lennox Gardens, Flynn Place, Yarralumla. Entry is free.
Learn how to make a Chinese lantern in preparation for the Lantern Festival. Adults and children welcome.
Sunday, February 21, 1.30pm-3.30pm, at the Cook Community Hub, 41 Templeton Street, Cook. Cost is $3 per person. Bookings essential to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 6254 7732.