HOTELS, restaurants and businesses in Cambodia, especially in the capital of Phnom Penh, are fully behind the Chinese New Year celebrations and across the world from Hawaii to Hong Kong, Sydney to San Francisco, the festivities will continue for many days.
In Southeast Asia where Chinese New Year is such an important holiday, the biggest celebrations take place in Penang and Singapore.
In Singapore it is accompanied by various festive activities, one of the main highlights being the Chinatown celebrations which last year included a Festive Street Bazaar, nightly staged shows at Kreta Ayer Square and a lion dance competition.
The Chingay Parade, an annual street parade in Singapore also features prominently in the celebrations. Well known for its colourful floats and wide variety of cultural performances the highlights of the parade this year will include a fire party, multi-ethnic performances and an unprecedented travelling dance competition.
Although Asian celebrations may have been going for many years longer other countries have a strong history behind their involvement in the festivities, such as America and Australia where the gold rushes in each country were instrumental in getting local Chinese populations and natives alike celebrating the Lunar New Year.
In 1849, with the discovery of gold and the ensuing California Gold Rush, more than 50,000 people had come to San Francisco to seek their fortune or just a better way of life. Among those were many Chinese, who had come to work in the gold mines and on the railroad. By the 1860s, the residents of San Francisco’s Chinatown were eager to share their culture with their fellow San Francisco residents and organisers chose to showcase it by using a favourite American tradition – the parade.
Nothing like it had ever been done in their native China and they invited a variety of other groups from the city to participate, marching down the main avenues carrying colourful flags, banners, lanterns, and drums and firecrackers to drive away evil spirits.
In San Francisco an illuminated night parade has been a tradition since those gold rush days while in Los Angeles more than 100,000 people line the route of the Chinatown parade.
Gold Rush fever also brought the Chinese to Australia in the 1850s and 1860s.
About one-third of the miners were Chinese and many Chinese-Australian families can trace their settlement in Australia to that time. Monuments and buildings developed by Chinese settlers serve as reminders of the long history of Chinese immigration to Australia.
Examples remain in towns like Ballarat and Bendigo in Victoria. Memorabilia is displayed in museums such as the Chinese Museum in Melbourne and the Golden Dragon Museum in Bendigo.
Sydney and Melbourne have Chinatowns that are a hub for restaurants, Chinese grocery stores and other small businesses, and centres for the celebration of festivals such as Chinese New Year.
The Chinese-Australian community holds a variety of events to celebrate the arrival of the New Year.
The Great Dragon appears at the Chinese New Year celebrations in the streets of Melbourne. In 2003 a new dragon – the Millennium Dai Loong Dragon – was commissioned from the Foshan Arts Institute China.
The Millennium Dai Loong Dragon in Melbourne is carried by more than 200 people and is awakened every year with a ceremony of offerings to the gods followed by a lion dance.
Sydney claims to have the largest Chinese New Year Celebrations outside of Asia with 600,000-plus people attending the celebrations in Chinatown in 2009. The events there span over three weeks including the launch celebration, outdoor markets, evening street food stalls, Chinese top opera performances, dragon boat races, a film festival and multiple parades. The festival also attracts international media coverage, reaching millions of viewers in Asia.
Honolulu has a host of festivals , traditions and boat races for the New Year; Vancouver has a big parade; and the Hong Kong parade with the harbour fireworks is a must-see.
London is full of festivities and a ceremony in Trafalgar Square and in Paris the French-Chinese community provides one of its most popular annual events.
So wherever you are around the world, whatever culture you are from or language you speak you will not be far from a Chinese New Year celebration to remember.