The Chinese New Year is a pretty momentous occasion. For the most part, it signifies the current year of the zodiac and how that will affect others for the next 365 days. But in certain countries, even when you exclude China, this event means following up on certain traditions. In Tibet, for example, they commemorate the Losar Festival. And in the Philippines, they serve a cake called “tikoy
.” While the Lunar New Year isn't as universal as the likes of Christmas and Valentine's Day, millions of people still celebrate it. And they do so in the most fascinating ways!
Singapore - The Chinatown Wishing Tree
Let's start with Singapore, an island country in Southeast Asia with a largely Chinese-centric culture. Just like in China, the Lunar New Year is practically a national holiday here. Various neighborhoods in Singapore
hold their own festive celebrations. From lively dragon dances to bustling street markets, Chinese New Year is the liveliest holiday in Singapore. Arguably even more so than Christmas. In fact, the city even sets up a tree during this holiday too. The Chinatown Wishing Tree lets locals and tourists alike write down their wishes and hang them up in the hopes of letting new year's luck make them come true.
South Korea - The Daljip Ritual
In South Korea, the Lunar New Year is incredibly important. They call it the 'Seollal
' and commemorate it for three whole days. And during these three days, Koreans meet with their loved ones, wear traditional hanboks, and even practice their unique Dajip Ritual. It consists of a huge bonfire, usually made out of bamboo and pine tree branches, which is lit up as a way to bring in good luck for the incoming year. As the holiday is held during winter, it's also a way for locals to get together and warm up against harsh weather patterns.
Tibet - The Losar Festival
Despite how tumultuous Tibet's relationship is with China, they still celebrate the Chinese New Year. Or rather, the Tibetan New Year, a holiday that closely resembles the more famous iteration. Though there are some distinctions, both holidays share a lot of similarities. For example, both the Chinese and Tibetan New Years are celebrated over 15 days in the first quarter of the year. The dates often line up too, though rarely exactly the same. and most notably, Tibet celebrates the Losar Festival during this New Year celebration. It's a colorful and lively event done as a gesture of gratitude to Buddha and the gods.
Vietnam - Celebrating Tết Nguyên Đán
Here in Vietnam, Chinese New Year is called 'Tết Nguyên Đán
.' It's among the most sacred festivals in the Vietnamese calendar and often marks the start of spring. Held within six to nine days, people use this week-long holiday to meet with loved ones, reunite with family, and even decorate their homes. The latter is the most common, with northern Vietnam using peach blossoms and central and southern Vietnam using yellow apricot blossoms. These flowers represent the people's hope for the new year, a new beginning, and to bring good fortune for the year ahead.
Philippines - Serving Tikoy
Another Southeast Asian country, the Philippines, also takes the Chinee New Year very seriously. So much so that it's become entrenched in the country's culture, resulting in unique traditions during the holiday. One of which is the 'tikoy
,' a glutinous rice cake. It's known as 'Nian gao
' in Chinese. During the Lunar New Year, Filipinos prepare and eat tikoy during their holiday feasts, usually as a snack or dessert. They sprinkle it with sugar or drench it with condensed milk to make the taste sweeter. Moreover, they also commonly give tikoy to their loved ones as presents.
Just like with every other holiday, how the Chinese New Year is celebrated differs from country to country. It's fascinating to see how various cultures commemorate this holiday with their unique and interesting traditions.