7 Ways to Kick Off the Lunar New Year Around the World

For cultures following the lunar calendar, the new year doesn’t start until the first new moon – a date that shifts from year to year. The Lunar New Year in 2020 is on January 25, with some celebrations continuing for weeks following. From age‑old rituals to lively street festivals, here’s how to mark the occasion – and make good on your “travel more” resolution.

What are the best places in Asia to celebrate the Lunar New Year?

Start 2020 on a lucky note in Hanoi. For Tết (Vietnamese New Year), Hanoians queue at the Temple of Literature and ask calligraphers to paint paper scrolls with an auspicious word. Dating back to 1070, the picturesque site was once home to the Imperial Academy, Vietnam’s first national university, and students still pray here for top marks.

December 20, 2019
An older man writes in ink on a large piece of paper in Hanoi at the Temple of Literature
   Photo: Dukas Presseagentur/Alamy

Watch sparks fly in Nuanquan, China. To celebrate the Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, local blacksmiths‑turned‑folk‑artists create a pyrotechnic spectacle by throwing molten iron – heated up to 1,600 degrees Celsius – at a frozen wall. Held in Tree Flower Square, the 500‑year‑old ritual is known as Da Shuhua.

Local blacksmiths throw molten iron at a frozen wall in Nuanquan, China
   Photo: Imaginechina Limited/Alamy

Visit the world’s oldest Chinatown in the Philippines. Head to the Binondo quarter in Manila and do as the locals do: The Buddhist community flocks to Seng Guan Temple for New Year’s prayers and incense burning.

A group of boys in costume walking around with a dragon in the Philippines' Chinatown
   Photo: Bernice Beltran/NurPhoto via Getty Images

See the bright lights at Kek Lok Si Temple in Air Itam, Malaysia. The sprawling 19th‑century site is one of Southeast Asia’s largest Buddhist temples, and each Lunar New Year, it’s decked out for the occasion with thousands of lanterns and multicoloured lights.

What are the best places outside of Asia to celebrate the Lunar New Year?

Feel the festive beat in Canada. As part of LunarFest, Taiwanese music ensemble Chai Found Music Workshop will bring its take on sizhu (Chinese chamber music) to Canada for the first time. The show, A Musical Banquet, will go on in select cities, including Vancouver and Mississauga, Ontario.

Join the massive crowd in London, U.K. The British capital claims the title of the biggest Chinese New Year bash outside Asia, with a family‑friendly parade, dragon dancing and traditional street food drawing hundreds of thousands to the city’s West End.

Two dragons, red and yellow, dance on the streets in Sydney
   Photo: Destination NSW

Hit the Lunar Lanes street party in Sydney, Australia. Live performances include Chinese lion dancing, Korean drumming and Japanese hip hop. New for 2020, the Haymarket laneway social will kick off the annual Sydney Lunar Festival, which spans more than 80 events over 16 days (January 25–February 9).