How People Around The World Celebrate CNY

Writer: Farah Karim

Celebrated around late January till early February, Chinese New Year (a.k.a. the Lunar New Year) is a celebration that Chinese people all over the world celebrate regardless of where they are. With over 50 million of them living in different parts of the world, everyone celebrates this festivity differently. However, this celebration is not just restricted to Chinese people. Koreans and Japanese also celebrate it with the same principles as the Chinese do: to bring prosperity and success into the new year ahead.

Without further ado, here’s how the people from five countries celebrate Chinese New Year.

Malaysia – Yee Sang

Source: SBS Australia

Inheriting traditions from the mainland China, Malaysians have made this festive season their own by introducing new traditions. While there is the usual giving of red packets, fire crackers, lion dances and putting of red lanterns, there’s one thing that we do that others don’t: yee sang.

Weirdly enough, it’s mainly a South East Asian thing that Malaysians, Singaporeans and Indonesians do. Probably from the migration of Cantonese Chinese that immigrated here the last few hundred years, this activity aims to bring prosperity, abundance and vigor into the new year. Besides that, on Chinese New Year’s Eve many of us would have steamboat for dinner, which is considered to be the reunion dinner after being apart for so long. Intended as a meal that’s easy to prepare, cook and serve, this isn’t just easy on the household who is hosting the dinner but also the guests as this buffet-style dinner makes it easier to catch up with loved ones.

Vietnam – Gambling for kids

Source: Kenh14

In Vietnam, the Chinese New Year is referred to as Tét which is a short form for Tét Nguyên Dan which means “Feast of the First Morning of the First Day”. Many Vietnamese prepare for this day by cleaning the house and preparing special holiday food like bánh chưng (Vietnamese rice cake), bánh dày (traditional Vietnamese cake), sticky rice and giò (Vietnamese sausage). Instead of playing mahjong or card games, the Vietnamese have their own game called bầu cua cá cọp that uses a board and three dice. This game place wagers on a board that has six pictures and bet on which pictures will appear. Essentially, it’s a gambling game but for kids.

Each family also displays cây nêu which is basically a Christmas tree but for New Years that consists of a bamboo pole ranging from five to six metres long. They also decorate every house with yellow apricot blossoms, peach blossoms or St John’s wort depending on which part of Vietnam they’re from. These plants and their fruits symbolise fertility and fruitfulness for the family throughout the coming year.

South Korea


Seollal, or the Korean New Year, is one of the most important holidays in Korea. Adorning beautiful Hanboks (traditional Korean clothing), the Koreans celebrate the new year by eating jeon (a savoury Korean pancake) and ddeokguk (rice cake soup). Eating this is an absolute must because it symbolises cleanliness, purity and good fortune throughout the year.

They also have charye which is an ancestral ritual to honour their ancestors by preparing a large meal and assembling an altar with candles and relics. In tradition, children also wish sehbeh greetings by performing a deep bow to their elders while reciting “receive a lot of luck in the New Year”.


Source: Esplanade

If you go to Japan during the Chinese New Year, you’ll realise that it’s just like any other normal day. The reason why the Japanese don’t celebrate it is because in 1872, in which the Lunar calendar system had 13 months, the government found it hard to wage for 13 months so they switched to using the solar calendar.

However, some provinces like in Nagasaki and Okinawa still celebrate the new year with an annual lantern festival and indulging in eating soba which is a custom to help the eater let go of any hardships of the year. Here, the people celebrate with a long night of drinking and eating. Towns and villages alike have performances that feature traditional taiko drums and Eisa dancers (a form of folk dance originating from Okinawa Islands) with a grand display of fireworks to end the night.


Source: Concrete Playground

Arriving in Australia during Australia’s Gold Rush in the 1850s and 1860s, the Chinese-Australian community has grown exponentially since then and in major cities like Melbourne and Sydney, the Chinese New Year is always celebrated with gusto. The festivities parade through local Chinatowns feature lion dances, dragon dances and community performances that feature dancing and singing.

As many Australian Chinese are first or second generation immigrants, many of them celebrate the festivities at home like their parents would have in China. Dishes like fish, nian gao (New Year’s cake) and long noodles are eaten to bring prosperity, success and long life into the new year. There are even festivals in each suburb throughout the month of January and February so that no one is left out and there’s more fun spread around for non-Chinese citizens to enjoy.