The 10th of February, 2013 marks the start of the 4711th year of the Chinese lunar calendar. The Chinese New Year has been observed for almost 5000 years and has become one of the world’s most significant cultural events.
The astrologically inclined will note that the Year of the Snake in the Chinese zodiac begins on this year’s Chinese New Year date. For those born after the Chinese New Year date in the years of 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989 or 2001, this coming year marks an auspicious return to the astrological sign of your birth.
People born during the Year of the Snake tend to share the characteristics of being proud, organised and cautious. Some famous people who were born during the Year of the Snake include Abraham Lincoln, Charlie Sheen, Bob Dylan, Pablo Picasso and Oprah Winfrey.
The Chinese New Year traditionally commences at the start of the lunar year, with its so-called Lantern Festival celebrations beginning on the first new moon and concluding fifteen days later on the next full moon.
The yearly event is typically observed with parades, nightly celebrations and the display of lanterns. Chinese families also often use the Chinese New Year as an opportunity to gather, offer thanks and honour their departed ancestors.
Almost a third of the global population participates in the Chinese New Year celebrations in some way, and this Chinese New Year should be no exception to the longstanding tradition of observing the date within Asia and among Chinese dominated communities outside Asia.
Traditional food dishes served during the Chinese New Year celebrations tend to be symbolic. These include such culinary delights as sticky rice cakes to symbolise a sweet upcoming year.
Another Chinese custom involves serving an entire fish on the eve of the Chinese New Year. The head and tail of this symbolic meal represent a prosperous start and finish to the New Year. Other families might serve a whole chicken for dinner to represent the unity of their family.
This year, Shanghai’s Yu Garden in the Old City will be lit up for the Lantern Festival, as thousands are expected to hang a remarkable variety of lanterns and participate in colourful parades. Hong Kong also hosts an extraordinary Chinese New Year Parade, complete with a fireworks display, amazing floats and performances.
In Beijing, the ancient temples host Chinese New Year Temple Fairs or miao hui. Although these events were traditionally intended for worship, they have now become extensive festivities running over five days that include spectacular parades, drumming and performances by stilt walkers and acrobats.
Malaysia’s and Singapore’s Chinese New Year customs include single women visiting the river to float tangerines to single men waiting on the opposite shore. The ladies inscribe the fruit with their personal details in the hopes of finding a mate.
Outside Asia, San Francisco’s Chinatown is famous for its impressive Chinese New Year festivities, and the associated parade is widely considered among the world’s top ten parades. Sydney’s Chinatown is also expected to host Chinese New Year events such as dragon boat races, evening markets, a twilight parade, the annual dragon ball. A contemporary Asian Australian art exhibit will also be displayed at Sydney Town Hall.
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