Chinese New Year is a major celebration in many parts of Asia where people with Chinese ancestry live. But its celebration is also significant in New Zealand where a sizable Chinese and Asian population exists. It is not an official public holiday in New Zealand, but it is certainly an observance of increasing prominence.
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The timing of Chinese New Year is generally late January or early February. It is also known as the Spring Festival, based on the timing of the seasons in the Northern Hemisphere. Chinese New Year is actually celebrated for 15 consecutive days, but the first three days are most important.
Each Chinese New Year is designated as “the year of“ one of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac, which animal is supposed to characterise that year and all those born in it.
Chinese New Year is the most important annually recurring festival for people of Chinese ancestry all over the world. It has been celebrated for over 1,000 years – possibly much longer, and the traditions involved are deeply ingrained in Chinese culture. For many, it is also a religious holiday, full of prayers, offerings, and other acts of devotion.
Traditionally, the noisy nature of Chinese New Year celebrations and the prominent display of the colour red are meant to fend off evil. Fireworks and firecrackers serve the same purpose. Boisterous, colourful parades including lion dances are a mainstay of the festivities.
In Christchurch, there are large-scale Chinese lantern festivals held on the weekend days during the two-week span of New Year. In Auckland, celebrations normally start three days early and include the lighting up of Sky Tower in red and gold for the duration of the holiday.