New Zealand is famous for its diversity of the cultures and ethnic groups of its residents. Not only is New Zealand home to the Maori and Kiwi people, the country also contains a thriving Chinese community with significant numbers.
Every year, Chinese New Year is celebrated as the most important holiday of the Chinese calendar as well as being one of the oldest events in the world, dating back to more than 2,000 years ago.
Chinese New Year usually falls between the end of January and February with the upcoming 2018 Chinese New Year starting on the 16th of February. Celebrations usually last for 23 days which is derived from the lunar calendar.
The history of Chinese New Year
Like many celebrations in the Western calendar, Chinese New Year is filled with traditional Chinese food, decorations, and captivating activities. Many of these traditions are passed down from the practices of ancient Chinese residents.
Chinese New Year is said to fend off a beast in Chinese beliefs. The beast is thought to be afraid loud noises and the colour red. Hence fireworks and the prominent red outfits during the celebrations actually have a meaning behind them.
These ancient beliefs were the foundations of the first New Year celebrations and it has been passed down to today’s generation where Chinese New Year is universally celebrated regardless of race and religion.
Usually, the first few days of Chinese New Year celebrations are observed as public holidays; some countries that do not have a significant Chinese background may have shorter holidays, however.
Things to do in New Zealand during Chinese New Year
Christchurch Lantern Festival
In the peaceful city of Christchurch, several events are held during Chinese New Year with one of them being the Chinese Lantern Festival on the weekends of the celebration.
Lantern festivals were traditionally celebrated on the 15th day of the lunar month when the new year passes. The festival is widely acknowledged to originate from the belief that ghostly spirits can be seen under the light of the full moon.
Ancient Chinese people believed that the lanterns allowed them to spot these spirits during the festival.
Chinese New Year stargazing
Stargazing and star lore has always been an important observation for Chinese New Year celebrations. Since ancient times, the Eastern sky is observed during the night when the moon is in full shape.
Ancient Chinese astronomers studied and observed Jupiter’s orbit, finding out that it took the planet roughly 12 years to complete a cycle. This discovery was the foundation of the Chinese Zodiac, with each of the 12 years being associated with a different animal.
At the South Island’s Lake Tekapo, tourists can head over to famous stargazing spots to experience Chinese New Year in a unique way. The ancient Chinese believed that Jupiter shines the brightest during Chinese New Year which is seen as an auspicious period for humans.
Auckland’s Chinese New Year Festival and Market Day
Every year in one of New Zealand’s largest and most diverse cities, Auckland hosts an annual Chinese New Year Festival and Market Day which usually starts a few days before the date of the celebration itself.
This fantastic event started over 30 years ago and is still growing today with over 200 stalls of sumptuous Chinese delicacies and, cuisine, traditional fine arts and crafts, as well as performances such as the famous lion dance.
If you’re in Auckland at this time of the year, do yourself a favor and head over to the festival – you will love it!
Have a blast at SkyCity Auckland
For more than 20 years, SkyCity Auckland has been celebrating Chinese New Year with massive fanfare and it has become one of the most anticipated events of the year in the City of Sails.
For two weeks, the 328 meters tall Sky Tower will glow red and gold in accordance with traditional Chinese New Year colors. The beaming tower can be seen all across Auckland as a signal for residents to celebrate the new year in style.
Again, there will free entertainment in and around the tower such as will fantastic cultural performances, traditional Chinese drumming as well as modern events like acrobatics mixed with a touch of Chinese heritage.
Bask in the glory of Milford Sound
One of New Zealand’s most memorable journies is the stretch along State Highway 94 on the southwest side of the South Island. The route leads you through gigantic mountains and valleys along a majestic natural forest.
At the end of the route, you’ll come across a fiord (a long stretch of water) of Milford Sound. Here, you’ll embrace one of the world’s treasures, with the iconic Mitre Peak towering above the water.
You’ll board a boat to explore Milford Sound’s passage that leads 10 miles to the open sea. Seals and penguins that are native to New Zealand are commonly spotted along the way; you might even catch a sight of bottlenose dolphins if you’re lucky!
Waikato’s name is derived from the river in the region known as the Waikato river.
If you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Waikato is used as the movie’s background with places like Port Waikato where one of the memorable scenes in the movie was filmed. Even if you are not a fan of the trilogy, the history behind Waikato is a good enough reason for you to visit it.
There also attractions such as the Waitomo Caves, a popular tourist spot thanks to its natural glow worm habitat. To get into the cave, you’ll go on a boat and be lead with the help of an expert.
Inside, the cave will be cool and dark but you’ll be rewarded with an astonishing display of the glow worms’ green lights – a view that you kids especially would love.
About the Road Trip
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