Chinese New Year 2019: The Spring Festival Abroad
In the world, there are still many other countries celebrating the Spring Festival and they are mainly located in Asia. These nations have been influenced by Chinese culture and the Spring Festival is on the list of lawful holidays. While in Europe and America, only overseas Chinese observe the tradition. The festival attracts more attention with the growing influence of Chinese people. Far away from their homeland, many overseas Chinese still celebrate the Spring Festival in both Chinese and exotic ways. This traditional festival has gone abroad and becomes an international festival.
In the Southeast of Asia
The Spring Festival is very popular among the nations in the region as they have a large population of Chinese, and equally important, they have been deeply influenced by Chinese traditional culture. By far, Chinese people there have still kept the customs alive such as big dinner eating, couplet and Fu character pasting, lantern show and lion and dragon dance and some others.
In Singapore, Chinese has a significant population percentage of 75%. The events related are quite characteristic due to the fact that the Spring Festival there is both traditional and modern. People have two days off stipulated by the government.
Chinese Singaporeans clean the house and then buy some New Year products such as the couplets and god paintings before the Festival. At the same time, they will pick up some flowers and plants that symbolize luck and good fortune. For instance, bamboo, chrysanthemum, orange tree, and money tree are among their favorite.
The red lanterns could be seen everywhere hung under the eaves and the paintings of door-god and fortune-god are pasted on the gates. Bat (fu) is a homophone for fortune (fu) in Chinese, so we can always see the New Year Cards stamped by bats. And orange (ju) sounds like luck (ji), people thus like to eat oranges. They must bring two oranges as a gift and hold them to the host when they set first foot in the house on New Year’s Day. While when the guests leave, the hosts need to give the two oranges back. Eating fish is also auspicious as fish (yu) is pronounced the same as wealth (yu). Lo hei is a special delicacy in the southeast of Asia. It is mainly made of rare fish slices. Put in other ingredients such as vegetable shreds, fruit pieces, spicy powder, peanut sand mix them together, Yu Sheng will be soon ready. It is believed that the food could bring people luck and fortune when people pick up delicious delight with chopsticks while yelling out “Lo hei, Lo hei” (pick up happiness). At present, many Chinese Singaporeans have home delivery or enjoy their big dinner in restaurants, which win the favor of the customers by launching new and fine cuisine. Most of the price ends in lucky number “8” (“far” in Chinese means big money-making).
Besides rice cake cooking, couplets sticking and flower buying, the most important part is to have a reunion dinner with family members. On the eve children stay up till midnight and parents think this can prolong their life. The next morning, the young will send congratulations to the elders while the elders give money as a gift. The groom must be taken away because floor sweeping means that good luck will be swept away. On the following days, people can visit friends and relatives.
In Singapore China town is renamed Niu Che Shui, which may be the most typical representative place to sell traditional goods. From the beginning of the twelfth lunar month, flowing like rivers, product purchasers get together into the old-branded shopping malls and markets in China town, which is regarded as the most-favored shopping area with most varieties. A few days before the festival, some stores will be kept being open during the night to meet the need of those who have no time available at daytime. The street is being illuminated with colorful lamps and red lanterns hung on both sides, which add, no doubt, more festival color.
The Seashore Park is a good place for Chinese Singaporeans to celebrate the festival. Besides watching beautiful lanterns and solving lantern riddles, people also can see how the traditional art crafts are made on the spot, and enjoy delicious food and snack. As the night falls, the performers who are from Singapore and the rest of the world will give splendid performances. On the eve night, a large-scale fireworks show will be held to celebrate the coming of the New Year when the countdown begins.
Chingay Parade is an ingenious celebration way that stems from Chinese Singaporeans. It is a gala parade composed of dance, music, carnival float, lion and dragon dance.
Chinese Malaysians treat the Spring Festival as the most important festival, which is a long-term from the winter solstice to the fifteenth days of the first lunar month. Chinese Malaysians exchange New Year greetings of “gong xi la ya”, which is a combination of Chinese and Malaysian congratulations. When the festival is coming, people will try their best to go home. Planes and trains are much more crowded than usual, and so are long-distance buses.
The red lanterns are lighting up every China town in the nation. Sometimes there are up to 20 to 30 thousand lanterns shining together in Kuala Lumpur business and hotel district. That creates a heated atmosphere and spectacular man-made scenery.
On the eve, the families get around to eat a reunion dinner and stay up all night. The next day people will stay at home to receive relatives or visitors of other Malaysian ethnics and prepare delicious dishes to entertain the guests of honor. Spring rolls, lobster slice, nasi lemak, curry chicken and beef are all local-lovers and must be included on the list. However, god believers cannot eat anything but vegetables. In order not to sweep away good luck, they don’t clean the floor. And on the following days, people can enjoy entertainment activities and watch opera performances.
Chinese Catholics and Christians, which cover 20% of the population, also celebrate the Spring Festival. The church is open for them to pray on New Year’s Day Some lion dance teams are invited to perform around the churches for sake of prosperity.
Most of Chinese Malaysians immigrated from the southern Fujian of China (Minnan Region in Chinese), so the culture of Minnan has exerted great influence on their life. Here is an example. People must buy an auspicious fruit named Feng Li (pineapple) just because the fruit “Feng Li” sounds like “Wang lai” (the fortune comes) in Hokkien.
For Vietnamese, the Spring Festival is the most important festival and the longest legal holiday. People visit relatives and friends during the Spring Festival holidays. “Eating fat meat and drinking ginger with red couplets on the door; tasting zongba and seeing big flag waving and firecrackers setting off.” From this Vietnam ballad, we may know how Vietnamese pay their attention to the Spring Festival.
Before the holiday, people start to prepare New Year’s goods. About ten days before the Spring Festival, the flower market begins to become crowded. In addition to fresh flowers, bonsai, people can also buy all kinds of balloons, lights, toys, posters, the Spring Festival couplet, and calendar. Streets are decorated with colorful lanterns and radiant with joy. There is little difference between Vietnamese and Chinese special purchases. Besides selling New Year pictures and orange, the street stalls still have various red envelopes sealed, red bottom gold-lettered Spring Festival couplets, etc. Spring Festival couplets are often inscribed with auspicious Chinese words by gold lacquer. For most families, three ornaments are necessary: a bunch of sprouting peach blossom, orange bonsai and a container with five kinds of fruit. It is said that the three things can foretell good luck, safety and flourishing. Another custom is called “green picking”, that is, people always pick up green branches home in the arrival of the Spring Festival because “green” and “fortune” are unisonant in Vietnamese Language and it means they can bring fortune home.
Being Chinese origin, the Vietnamese will also paste spring couplets on the door. The couplet used to be written in Chinese character and now switches to alphabet writing. Vietnamese like sticking Chinese character “blessing” and “joy” and other words, together with the image of Fortune God, Longevity God and all sorts of traditional New Year pictures.
Chinese have the custom of staying up on the eve, and so do Vietnamese People put on holiday clothes and get together into the streets. Young women like to wear their national costumes. At 12 o’clock midnight, Spring Festival speech given by national leaders will be broadcast through radio and television. And the atmosphere comes to the climax.
On New Year’s Day morning, every family needs to worship their ancestors, and at the same time, they need to pay their respect to Land God, Fire God, and Art Craft God. Sacrifices are generally composed of Zongzi, fried fish, beef, etc. After the worship, children will express their happy New Year wishes to adults and the old men, and they are given their New Year’s money in return. The first guest is especially valued as it is said that this person will bring good luck to the master. And the Vietnamese will usually invite a good friend to set foot on their house as the first visitor on that big day.
Zongzi and glutinous rice cakes are two typical Vietnamese national foods to eat at the Spring Festival. The making of Zongzi is similar to that of Chinese Zongzi at Dragon Boat Festival, while Vietnamese Zongzi is square-shaped and much bigger in size. There is a legend in Vietnam in which Zongzi symbolizes earth, green leaf wrapping it stands for life, pork and green bean fillings represent animals and vegetation.
During the Spring Festival cultural and recreational activities will be held in the streets, parks and other public places including traditional Vietnamese drama, Singing and dancing performance, acrobatics, martial arts, wrestling, lion dance and so on. Playing on the swing, chess, birds fighting, and gamecock are popular too. There are also a few taboos on New Year’s Day, for example, people can’t borrow things and can’t demand repayment of a loan. Doing farm work is also forbidden because Earth God cannot be disturbed during the festival or they will bring people disaster. People are not allowed to sweep the floor. If they do it carelessly they cannot take out the trash until three days later.
In the East of Asia
In South Korea
The Spring Festival is the second largest after the Mid-Autumn Festival in South Korea. South Koreans call the Spring Festival as “She’er”, which means the beginning of the New Year. During the time people enjoy a national holiday. They return to their hometown from big cities. On the eve the whole family are together to worship ancestor and pray for good luck.
It is said that the Spring Festival begins from Silla Era (668-901) in South Korea. In 1985 the “folk day” festival takes its place and the Spring Festival has restored its name by 1999.
South Korean people eat family reunion dinner on the eve when thousands of restaurants hang the notice “closure for rest days” outside, or labeled as “open till the third day”. This particular custom has a long history out of business on the eve. Since ancient times, the South Koreans have been very particular about the eve dinner. They make it by hand and eat together at home. The Spring Festival is a big day to pay respect to ancestors and at the same time, to pass down filial piety tradition to the next generation. In their opinion, the reunion dinner is not only valuable to every family member, but also reveals the prosperity of the whole clan.
There are a lot of traditional customs observed by South Koreans, for instance, makeup, New Year paintings, blessing strainer net, driving evil spirits and ancestral worship, ancestor’s talk, throwing game and the springboard. Among them, the most essential part is the ancestor worship. After that, the younger generation will give best wishes to the elders and the elders will give them New Year money. The South Koreans are used to putting the money into white envelopes rather than red ones as Chinese people prefer to do.
Korean Spring Festival food, referred to as “New Year meal”, is exquisite enough. The food must be traditional diet and have to be made in hand by the daughters-in-law of the family. These women are much occupied because they not only prepare for the reunion dinner, but are also responsible for all meals during the Spring Festival. Cooking skills have served as the most important standard to judge whether a woman is a good wife or not. “Rice cake soup” is the most representative festival cuisine to make and this food is related to the fact that ancient
Koreans adored the sun greatly. The white rice cake pieces are as round as the sun, so eating the soup on New Year’s Day morning means that they meet the sunlight and pay their respect. In addition to it, the soup also stands for solemnity and tidiness of rebirth in accordance with some religious beliefs. The soup used to be stewed with pheasant, but now pheasants are difficult to hunt, so people have to switch to beef or chicken soup. In the northern and central regions, people like to add dumplings to the soup and the dumplings should be filled with mashed mountain chicken, bean sprout, mushroom and kimchi inside.
Koreans usually don’t sleep during the Eve night. The whole family must stay up late to meet the arrival of the Spring Festival, together with the ancestors. Or their eyebrows would turn grey in the legend.
The favorite game for the reunion family is a kind of card play which was introduced from Japan. It is said that 90% of adults can play it well. Some other people will take the holiday time to travel around and make fun.
Japan used to celebrate the Lunar New Year festival too and Japanese temple fair is called “De Wu”. After the Meiji Restoration of 1873, the lunar calendar was rejected and the Gregorian calendar was adopted. The date was changed; however, the Japanese still observed the Festival celebration in a traditional way. Before the Spring Festival, every family decorated the house with the pine trees. On the eve the whole family sat around the fire waiting for the coming of the New Year. At midnight the temple bells would ring 108 sounds and the next day people went out to greet each other with happy New Year. There were “blessing bags” as called selling well during the time. This bag could contain cosmetics, clothing, everyday use, and electric appliances, etc.
The Spring Festival celebration was named as “offering” in Japan. And people could get pleasure around all sorts of temple fair during the offering time. Japanese temple fairs were a little different from Chinese ones, mainly in form. In Kyoto three offerings were among the largest, they were Aoi Matsuri, Gion Matsuri, and Jidai Matsuri. All the offerings were held in the shrines as these initially were Shintoism festivals. These big offerings were grand and large-scaled in which People wore the national costume to patrol, ride and dance.
Chinese New Year celebrate in other countries
In the USA
New York made the Spring Festival public holidays in 2003. From then on, more Americans have been squeezing to experience Chinese New Year. They taste top-notch Chinese food, and enjoy deafening drum play and merry dance performances. During the Festival, 1327 color lamps on the State Empire Building have been shining up red and golden to express Chinese New Year congratulations to all citizens. While in three biggest Chinatowns (Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens), a variety of celebration activities are held including the most famous one – flower car parade. The Koreans join Chinese celebrations with joy as they follow the tradition of the Spring Festival too.
On the west coast of San Francisco and Los Angeles, in addition to the parade, people travel around the temple fair to enjoy snacks and buy some small handmade artworks.
Before the Eve, many Chinese usually go around some Toronto Chinese “time-honored brand” supermarkets to buy New Year products. They meet their Chinese folks with joy and exchange early greetings of happy New Year. In order to attract more customers, the supermarkets compete to display all their Chinese-styled commodities such as couplets and lanterns. As expected, they are always crowded, hustling and bustling at this time.
Chinese Spring Festival evening party has become a noted event held by local Chinese communities in Toronto. The party is hosted annually and its comprehensive performances include dance, instrumental music, drama, crosstalk, and sketch show, which is regarded as the earliest local gala of Chinese Spring Festival. This “Toronto Established Gala” began at first in 1988 and later the parties were given by some Chinese students of Toronto University in the auditorium and library. With the audience number growing steadily every year, the party was transferred to the auditorium of a middle school near the university’s campus. And by the 1990s it has moved to the theatres such as Toronto Conference Center Theatre as its quality performance has been recognized widely. After we move into the 21st century, this Spring Festiva Gala has been organized in a better way as more distinguished unions joined the host work like Chinese Professionals Association and Canadian Toronto Chinese Community and by far the Toronto-based gala has been a traditional celebration hosted and shared by all Chinese communities in Toronto which is full of Chinese national characteristics. In 2006, on the basis of the gala, CCTV “The Same Song”, which was a popular music show in Mainland China, came to Canada and staged its first performance with joint efforts and participation of more organizers and communities. During the recent two decades, many local best artists have been enlisted in the gala performance. At present, Toronto Chinese Spring Festival Evening Party, or Simply the gala, is a must-watch for many overseas Chinese. In worldwide Chinese communities, it is as popular as the CCTV Spring Festival Gala in China.
Besides in the USA and in Canada, we can also see temple fairs at the Festival in other places of Latin America, for example, Mexico City and Buenos Aires.
When the Spring Festival comes, the streets of France are fresh and colorful with flying flags. Banners and red lanterns are also hung everywhere in China towns. People can even see big red lanterns illuminating in Paris City Hall Plaza, radiant and full of joy and happiness. Many Parisians will get together in the Plaza to enjoy the firework show, and more excitedly watch costume parade given by French Chinese Union. The mayor is expected to finish the final draw for the eye of the dance lion, in which the lion is said to get alive and begin its dance. In the tune of drum and percussion, dragon and lion dance team, waist drum team, land boat team, race donkey team, and dragon boat team are all dancing cheerfully together, which has already been one of the most eye-catching events in Paris.
In the 3rd, 4th, 13th and 19th districts of Paris, there are theatrical parades hosted by some French Chinese organizations and communities.
In the UK
People could see Chinese temple fairs at the Spring Festival in London, Edinburgh and Manchester City. And among them, the largest is in London. The fair was first begun at China towns and later was expanded to Leicester Square. From 2012, it has been moved into Trafalgar Square. Since 2008, there have been over 300 thousand people who have travelled around the fairs to watch art performances, take part in participatory performances, and enjoy characteristic handicraft and all kinds of snacks.
In the capital city Berlin, the shopping malls always display colorful New Year cards in some noticeable places, with a piece of Confucius statement and dragon and phoenix design at the Festival time. Germans are all fond of these Chinese-styled cards.
In multicultural Australia, immigrants from all over the world can celebrate their own festivals happily and so are Chinese for Chinese New Year. Most Chinese live in large-sized Chinatowns of Sydney, Canberra, Queensland and Darwin, and other cities. So when the Spring Festival is approaching, the big temple fairs are held in these places including Beijing Opera performance, the dragon and lion dance, folk snack tasting, firecrackers show, and dragon boat race to celebrate the arrival of the New Year.
Chinese Spring Festival comes when it is the midsummer time in Australia. So naturally the dragon boat race is the local favorite and the main event usually attracts hundreds of thousands of people. In Melbourne, the longest dragon model in the world is as long as 150 meters with a history of over 100 years. At the Festival, the dragon will be carried around the streets by more than 200 strong Australians and Chinese and the event is extraordinary and spectacular.