Chinese New Year is a unique holiday. It technically starts on the first new moon of the New Year (that’s February 3 in 2011) and ends on the full moon fifteen days later. Long by any holiday’s standards, in reality the festivities in many parts of the world start much earlier than that, and extend much later. Like many holidays, it is celebrated with special foods, family functions, and rituals, but the party doesn’t stop there either. Melding religion, astrology, fireworks, parades, dancing, lanterns, and ornate costume, Chinese New Year is a grand event not only in China, but throughout the world.
To help say goodbye to the pig and hello to the rat, here are five of the biggest celebrations that will have you saying “Gung Hay Fat Choy!” well past the last firework.
Hong Kong Celebration 
Next time I decide to do a marathon, I might just jet over to Hong Kong for theirs; it coincides with the biggest party in the city, Chinese New Year. The festivities last from February 1–21, and promise to be the biggest in the world. Because the Chinese New Year is the biggest event on the Lunar calendar, it is given its due respect with a night parade, soccer tournament, fireworks, and lantern festival. You can also make a pilgrimage to Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple, where soothsayers will predict your future. In mine: another marathon.
San Francisco New Year Parade 
The parade in San Francisco is no small affair. You have to get to the sidelines early or else you’re standing five people deep, trying to get a glimpse of a dragon or two. But the reason why it draws such a big crowd is because it’s worth it: rumored to be the biggest celebration outside of Asia and named one of the top ten parades in the world, it has floats, fireworks, a 201-foot Golden Dragon, and acrobatics. It takes place on February 23rd this year. There are a host of other related activities, including a flower fair and a 10k/5k run through Chinatown.
Chinese New Year Spectacular 
The Chinese New Year Spectacular is a music and dance performance celebrating traditional Chinese culture. The show kicks off at Radio City Music Hall in New York, on January 30th, and will travel to Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Organized by Divine Performing Arts, a group who strives to promote classical Chinese art and history, the show features ethnic dancing, song, and costumes.
Sydney Chinese New Year Festival 
Apparently, Sydney and SF need to work something out: Sydney claims it has the largest celebration outside of Asia. Probably impossible to determine, but no matter; their geographic separation means attendees aren’t likely to be deciding between the two. Kicking off February 1st and lasting three weeks, Sydney’s festival includes the requisite parade, Chinatown markets, and lanterns, but also has a Dragon Boat Race, which could be worth the ticket price alone. More than one hundred boats will paddle to the beat of a drum while competing in the ancient Chinese sport.
Uniquely Singapore Chinese New Year 
Singapore is a unique mix of cultures, so it makes sense that their Chinese New Year celebration reflects this. They have, perhaps, the widest variety of New Year events—a citywide goldfish competition, a stamp exhibit dedicated to the year of the rat, a Tibetan song and dance troupe, and spiritual advice from Lamas. Their main parade, named Chingay after the art of costume and masquerade, features international performances from China, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, Japan, and Ireland.
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