Chinese New Year 2012: Where to ring in the Year of the Water Dragon

14 Jan

What I’ll remember most is the firecrackers: The sound of them being drowned out by even louder ones; dragons shrouded in thick smoke dancing to a much-too-close firecracker staccato; fifteen days of nightly volleys from every corner of the city (firecrackers are traditionally a way to ward off evil spirits).

Of course, Chinese New Year is about much more than gunpowder revelling. There is an extensive list of traditions concerning food and prayer and good luck for the new year. In China, a population of 1.4 billion clogs all forms of transit by returning home to family and friends. There is the shopping bonanza that accompanies any major holiday. And with elaborate lantern displays that culminate in the release of hundreds of paper lanterns into the sky, Chinese New Year is certainly one of the more beautiful times to travel in China.

The coming Year of the Water Dragon, a special occurrence in the Chinese Zodiac every sixty years, promises even larger extravaganzas than usual. Known for his boldness and short temper, the dragon has long been a representation of the Chinese Emperors. The Water Dragon, by contrast, exudes calm and empathy.

This January 23, put on some red clothes, take your best shot at saying “Xin Nian Kuai Le” (it’s Happy New Year in Chinese and is pronounced sin-nien-kway-leh), and take in one of the many celebrations around the world.

Chinese-new-year-nagasaki-011

Hong Kong

Firecrackers are banned in the city of Hong Kong, but the city’s fireworks display, held January 24 over the waters of Victoria Harbour in front of the city’s majestic skyline, certainly makes up for the loss. Bookended by Kowloon’s Night Parade the night before and Sha Tin racecourse’s annual horse race the day after, Hong Kong will be one of the most iconic places to ring in the Year of the Water Dragon.

Beijing

Perhaps not as flashy as other cities in the region, Chinese New Year in Beijing traditionally revolves around the Miao Hui, colourful fairs that take place on the grounds of Taoist and Buddhist temples. Most Chinese cities will have at least one of these temple fairs; Beijing has a dozen. One of the most famous, at Ditan Park, is just steps away from the popular Tibetan Lama Temple in the north end of the city. Expect dragon dances, musical performances, acrobatics, huge lantern displays and lots of food.

Manila

Starting in Binondo, the world’s oldest Chinatown, Manila’s Grand Parade weaves its way through the city to bayside Rizal Park. January 22 festivities continue with a countdown and fireworks display when the clock strikes midnight.

Bangkok

Though not a public holiday in Thailand, Chinese New Year is celebrated with great revelry by sizeable Chinese communities all over the country. The narrow streets of Bangkok’s Chinatown district of Yaowarat, which border on sensory-overload any day of the year, are host to no end of pageantry, colour and decoration. Be sure to wear your red shirt.

Singapore

Singapore’s Chingay Parade, February 3, is normally a showstopper on the Asian Chinese New Year circuit with thousands of dancers and a lineup of acts from around the world. This year, parade organizers have gone a step further by incorporating a 360 metre waterway as centrepiece for the performances, creating the first ever ‘water parade’. In addition to other festivals taking place on the River Hongbao and in Chinatown, the city also hosts the ten-day Huayi Festival, a cultural showcase of Chinese visual and performance arts at the Esplanade Theatres on the Bay beginning January 27.

San Francisco

Billed as the largest celebration of Asian culture outside of Asia, SF’s Chinese New Year Parade rivals its Christmas counterparts on the East Coast. Highlights of the February 11 night parade are a newly crowned Miss Chinatown USA and a 76 metre-long golden dragon that requires a team of one hundred martial artists to move. Those looking for a healthy start to the year can take part in the Chinese New Year 5K/10K Walk and Run on February 19.

Sydney

Sydney’s two-week celebration of all things Chinese starts with a bang on January 20 in Belmore Park, continuing with the Twilight Parade on January 29 and ending with dragon boat races on February 5. In between there will be Bruce Lee tributes, cooking classes, free galleries, magicians, karaoke, and massive morning tai chi classes on the beach. With a special delegation hailing from China’s Sichuan province, the entertainment and food promise to be even spicier than usual.

Buenos Aires

The reach of Chinese New Year extends well into South America, where many cities boast large Chinese communities. Though it may not be the biggest celebration to grace this list, the January 21-22 street festival in Buenos Aires’ Barrio Chino is expecting to attract over 60,000 people. Events includes the requisite food, festivities, and cultural presentations, along with, of course, some local tango.

Vancouver

Fortunately, most Canadians don’t need to travel around the world to be part of Chinese New Year. With North America’s largest population of Chinese residents, Greater Vancouver is the country’s most notable host for the event. The Chinese New Year parade loops through downtown’s historic Chinatown on January 29, ending with a cultural fair near the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden. Not far away, the International Village on West Pender St. is expecting over 175,000 visitors to its performances, markets, and exhibitions from January 27-29.

Find JUST THE FACTS

Hong Kong: www.discoverhongkong.com/chinesenewyear

Beijing: www.chinatravel.com/focus/chinese-new-year/

Manila: www.rizalpark.nationalparks.ph/events.htm

Bangkok: www.bangkok.com/whats-on-events/chinese-new-year.htm

Singapore’s Chinatown: http://chinatownfestivals.sg

Singapore’s River Hongbao: www.riverhongbao.sg/

Singapore’s Huayi Festival: www.huayifestival.com/

Singapore’s Chingay Parade: www.chingay.org.sg/

San Francisco: www.chineseparade.com/

Sydney: www.sydneychinesenewyear.com/

Buenos Aires: www.mibelgrano.com.ar/dragondeagua.htm (Spanish)

Vancouver’s Chinese New Year Parade: www.cbavancouver.ca/parade.html

Vancouver’s International Village: www.henderson-development.ca/theinternationalvillage/

 

http://www.thestar.com/iphone/travel/article/1115086–chinese-new-year-2012-w…

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