MORE than a billion people around the world celebrated the lunar festival of Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, last Friday. According to the Chinese zodiac, 2014 is the Year of the Horse which is supposed to signify kindness, strength and gregariousness. In the larger Chinese astrological cycle, this year is also associated with the element of Wood, which makes 2014 the Year of the Wooden Horse.
Celebrations began with firework displays, family get-togethers, temple visits and street festivals. The lunar new year is typically a time for family and loved ones to reunite and take part in traditions aimed at bringing good fortune for the next 12 months.
While the largest celebrations take place in China, countries with a large Chinese population – namely Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines – celebrate in a big way, too.
Outside of Asia, the biggest celebration supposedly takes place in London where festivities began this year on the eve of Chinese New Year at the London Eye, which was lit in red and gold. Other major landmarks like Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square hosted colourful shows, Madame Tussauds presented a special collection of Chinese celebrities and the British Film Institute paid homage by playing Chinese films. The highlight, however, was a huge parade through Chinatown and the West End on Feb 2.
In Paris, there were not one but three parades to celebrate the Year of the Horse, while in Las Vegas in the United States, the Wynn hotel reportedly pulled out all the stops by installing three 362kg golden Tang Dynasty horse sculptures to mark the lunar new year.
There were similar celebrations in cities around the world. In Sydney, Australia, dancers dressed as horses were part of a city-wide parade, a fire-eater was part of the festivities in Manila, the Philippines, while in Dong Ky, Vietnam, hundreds took part in a firecracker festival!