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January 2014

Celebrating Chinese New Year around the world

Like Justin Bieber, Chinese New Year has grown into an international sensation known for its massive spectacle and sudden explosions. Fortunately, the festival marking the start of the Lunar Year is still very much a family-friendly affair.

Also known as the Lunar New Year and the Spring Festival, the centuries-old celebration honors traditional deities and ancestors. Strings of firecrackers are set off and money is given out in little red paper envelopes (red, denoting luck). Each year is symbolized by an animal of the Chinese Horoscope. This year, we enter into the Year of the Horse.

But how do countries outside of China celebrate Chinese New Year? Let’s take a look around the world.

Costumed Chinese lions come to life in London's Trafalgar Square for an event of stunning performances, cultural stalls and fireworks. The festivities incorporate the area throughout Shaftesbury Avenue and London's Chinatown. Families revel in an array of dazzling floats depicting grand dragons and mythical goddesses.

In Sydney, participants dress up in traditional Chinese attire for a grand parade. Old buildings, many dating back to the Australian Gold Rush in the 1850s and 60s, are decorated as reminders of the country's past. One of the highlights of Australia’s festivities is the Grand Dragon in Melbourne, also known as the Millennium Dai Loong Dragon, which is carried by over 200 people. Awakened each year by offerings, dragon dances across the country feature silk, paper and bamboo creatures stretching over 30 meters long. Chinese New Year ends with the lantern festival, when participants bring their glowing lanterns into the temples and carry them in a parade under the full moon.

San Francisco features one of the largest Chinese New Year celebrations in America. Visitors from around the world flock to Chinatown for a large street party full of food vendors and cultural shows. Chinese lion dancers take to the street across the city. In February, a grand parade courses through the heart of downtown San Francisco, moving across Market Street, around Union Square, through Chinatown and finally into North Beach. People of all cultures, including top officials like the city’s mayor and local celebrities, participate in the festivities.

According to The Moscow Times, Russians love to celebrate the animals of the Chinese Astrology, hoping for good luck for the following 12 months. In the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, fire performers fight the cold with impressive displays of fiery acrobatics. In the city of Blagoveshchensk, located just across a river forming the border between Russia and China, fireworks and laser lights from the Chinese city of Heihe can be seen and heard exploding well into the middle of the night.

How does your country celebrate Chinese New Year? Let us know on our Facebook Page and be sure to “like” TELC English to stay updated on more fun cultural facts from around the world!