Lunar New Year celebrations around the world
You might know it as Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival, either way it celebrates the arrival of spring throughout east and south-east Asia as well as communities across the globe.
Lunar New Year is marked by the appearance of the new moon during the first lunar month which usually happens some time between 21st January and 20th February.
And this year is the Year of the Dragon…
Chinatown | London
You don't have to trot across the globe to experience the traditions of the Lunar New Year – you can get a real feel for it in the heart of London's Chinatown.
Every year there's a massive parade that starts from Duncannon Street and passes through Chinatown in a bold red burst of colour and music. Plus there are incredible performances going on in Leicester Square, where you'll find loads of different dishes and drinks to try.
The Chinatown restaurants often have special menus for the festive period and you can even sample some special cocktails. Head to the Opium cocktail bar and order a zesty red dragon river, a Ming fashioned or a dragon spritz.
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Sapa | Vietnam
In Vietnam the Lunar New Year is known as Tet, a big celebration of the start of spring characterised by house cleaning and lots of delicious food like young bamboo soup and sticky rice. Children receive money in red envelopes to bring good luck and people go out into the street making as much noise as possible to fend off evil spirits.
Sapa is a small town that lies in the north-west of the country among the Hoang Lien Son mountains. A world away from the serene bays and buzzing cities you might associate with Vietnam, this charming town is more about rolling hills, mist-filled valleys and bright green rice terraces. Around Lunar New Year the temperature can get quite low, perhaps even low enough for snow, but it's not enough to stifle the warmth of the locals who hold a colourful annual festival filled with traditional food, embroidery and much more.
Seoul | South Korea
The Lunar New Year is called Seollal in South Korea and it's usually a time when people head home to see their families or escape to the country's ski resorts for a well-earned break. As a result the capital, Seoul, is actually quieter than usual which makes it a great time to visit if you want to avoid the crowds. Just avoid driving on the days either side of Seollal as you'll probably get stuck in holiday traffic.
That's not to say there's nothing going on in the city at this time of year – stroll around some of the city's beautiful temples and palaces which often have special seasonal events that include traditional games and rituals as well as impressive performances. Plus, if you wear traditional South Korean dress, or hanbok, you can get in for free. And don't worry if you don't have your own as there are plenty of places you can go to rent one.
San Francisco | USA
There's a massive Chinese community in San Francisco so it's not surprising that it has the second-largest Chinatown in the USA after New York. It's also thought to be the birthplace of fortune cookies which were popularised in the USA by Asian immigrants in the 19th century.
The Lunar New Year celebrations last for about two weeks in San Francisco so you've got a nice big window to catch some of them, though the parade is only held on one day (or night). It's the biggest Lunar New Year parade outside of Asia so you won't want to miss it.
But don't worry if you do because there are loads of other events to catch – like the annual Miss Chinatown pageant, a flower market and a community street fair.
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