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Chinese New Year in Melbourne

Updated on February 19, 2010

A Guide to the Fierce Frenzy of Chinese New Year in Melbourne

The Chinese New Year, which begins on the darkest day of the lunar calendar, always starts off with a roar! With each fresh lunar year, Melburnians flock to Chinatown to join in a frenetic frenzy of festivities, fireworks and food.

China Town Gate

"More Chinatown" by Reinis Traidas from Flickr. Original URL:
"More Chinatown" by Reinis Traidas from Flickr. Original URL:

Lucky Animals! A Brief History and Overview of Chinese New Year

As midnight approaches, the Dai Loong (a giant writhing dragon mascot) snakes through the streets as revellers attempt to get a glimpse, and sometimes, a chance to touch the fiendish fire-eater for a dose of luck. While, Melbourne’s Chinese community light lanterns to lead the way to a better new year, while the crowds bang pots and pans hoping to scare away the evil spirits.

The Chinese New Year is the most distinguished and enduring events of the Chinese calendar. With the moon’s movements as its guide, from the darkest date to the brightest eve, the jubilation (from preparation to getting over a hangover) lasts for several weeks.

Twelve animals dominate each year, signifying a new cycle of time. This belief stems from the legendary story of Buddha who had asked a dozen beasts to meet him in an attempt to end their bickering. Once the race commenced, the wise Buddha rewarded each one a year based on the order that they arrived. Since the shrewd rat hopped on the back of the Ox, each cycle begins with the rat. While the pig, which was probably busy rolling around in the mud or eating some cake, came in last, is at the end of the 12-year phase. (Though, I don’t blame the pig at all…really, who wouldn’t do the same thing?) Buddha then announced that each animal year represented distinct personality traits. This also gives you a legitimate reason to call the bill collector a “snake”, your rival a “rat” or your mother-in-law a “dragon—provided of course, they were actually born in those years!

During Chinese New Year, one can find themselves immersed in a sea of red! No, not Simply Red (does he even still perform?) but in a tide of people dressed in head-to-toe red for luck. From the fireworks to the “lucky money” wrapped in red envelopes, nearly every token, especially in a symbolic fire-red, follows the ancient ritual for good fortune, prosperity and joy.

Dim sum, Karaoke and Raging Beats: Melbourne’s Chinatown

Aside from being a great way to experiencing a different side to the city’s cultural landscape, the district also becomes a hotspot for partygoers eager to chase a shot with some belly warming dim sum.

If you think that Australia’s January 1 celebrations are insane, they are nothing compared to Melbourne’s Chinatown extravaganza.

If you’re worried that getting down and dirty will bring you bad luck, the night’s “Karaoke Competition” is already punishment enough. Therefore, chug that “Jiji” juice (i.e. local Chinese wine) and sing your heart out to Kylie Minogue’s “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.”

Known as Australia’s most spectacular Chinatown, the area is rife with bars, pubs and clubs to get you grooving and howling to the sickest beats. Once you enter the crimson archways located at both ends of Little Bourke Streets, there’s no resisting the sensatory assault. On any given day, Melbourne’s Chinatown is intense. But on Chinese New Year, the neighbourhood cranks everything – from food to sound to smells – to the maximum degree.

Since the 1850 gold rush, Melbourne’s Chinatown has flourished into one of the city’s most interesting, intriguing and intoxicating areas.

Though opium dens have been replaced by penny shops, there is no shortage of bonzer gigs and parties. Therefore, channel your animal year and prowl through the town’s variety of cutting-edge nightclubs. The electrifying blend of culture, madness and inebriation is unforgettable.

Break open your fortune cookie, don your flashiest garbs and welcome the dawn of a new year.

"Dragons" by Reinis Traidas from Flickr. Original URL:
"Dragons" by Reinis Traidas from Flickr. Original URL:

If you’re still wondering how to celebrate the Chinese New Year, Melburian-style, then check out this quick list:

1. Clean your house – Supposedly gets rid of bad luck. But better than that, you’ll find out what is making your couch emit that strange, rotting, mouldy smell!

2. Decorate your place (especially with a LOT of red) –
The scarlet shade symbolizes luck. If you can, also try to use the number eight (8) throughout the space since the number signifies fortune and favourable times. If you like flowers, try to fill some vases with lotuses which represent regeneration. If you’re pressed for time, you can combine all three by getting eight lovers, having them bring over lotus flowers and throwing a red scarf over a lamp (how 80s!) Or if you’re not that lucky to perchance eight hot lovers (then you must really need this guide, huh?), dig out your old Santa costume, eat eight donuts and wear your comfy floral print grundies.

3. DON’T clean on New Year’s Day – It’s believed that you’ll wipe away any good luck you’ve earned the previous night before. Cross your fingers that your flatmate didn’t throw up all over the carpet the night before.

4. Present a sacrifice to the Kitchen God –
If your flatmate DID throw up the night before, feel free to offer him or her.

5. Wear Red and Gold – Yes, you might just look like a drag queen, but you’ll be a very LUCKY drag queen.

6. Give children red envelopes. Married couples often also give their single friends and relatives red envelopes (for..err…luck) – If you’re married, it’s a fun way to annoy your single friends. If you’re single and you receive an envelope, feel free to barrage them with made up stories of your mind-blowing sex life with Xavier Rudd and Miranda Kerr.

7. Visit your relatives – Go directly to number 8 on the list.

8. Get really drunk – Not necessarily for luck, but definitely for happiness.

9. Go to a Parade. Touch the dragon (the mascot, not….)

10. Yell out “Gung hay Fat Choy" (Gong Xi Fa Chai). --To make it even more fun, go back to step 8.

"Superman had some liquid Kryptonite to drink" by Penningtron from Flickr. Original URL:
"Superman had some liquid Kryptonite to drink" by Penningtron from Flickr. Original URL:


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