Joburg has a very active Chinese community and local Chinese New Year celebrations are always an exuberant, noisy and colourful affair. Chinese New Year events are spread through the weeks before and after the official date of Chinese New Year (February 16 in 2018) and take place in Joburg’s First Chinatown (in the City Centre), the large New Chinatown in Cyrildene and at the Chinese Buddhist temple in Bronkhorstspruit near Pretoria.
In 2018 according to the Chinese zodiac, we are entering the year of the Earth Dog.
Sunday February 18
Chinese New Year at Nan Hua Temple
The magnificent Nan Hua Temple (about 45 minutes drive northeast of Joburg) was built with donations by Taiwanese Buddhists during a period when Taiwan had particularly close ties with South Africa and is now the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere. Chinese New Year celebrations at the Nan Hua Temple are a relatively quiet affair compared to those in Joburg’s two Chinatowns and hence make a particularly good destination for young families or anyone else who is averse to big crowds and loud firecrackers. The day-long celebrations include a special programme of martial arts and traditional dancing and visitors can enjoy an array of Chinese, Cantonese and Taiwanese food, buy traditional Chinese handicrafts, paint their own lanterns and learn more about Buddhist culture.
Saturday February 24
Chinese New Year in First Chinatown
Joburg’s First Chinatown on Commissioner St celebrates Chinese New Year on Saturday February 24 with a massive fireworks display, tons of street food stalls and plenty of traditional entertainment. The arrival of the Year of the Dog will be welcomed with dancing Chinese dragons and lions, Chinese drumming and singing and Kung Fu and Tai Chi displays. A variety of Chinese food will be on sale throughout the day in and around the First Chinatown area.
On Saturday March 3 it is the turn of Cyrildene, Joburg’s biggest Chinatown, to celebrate Chinese New Year. The event is an exuberant, noisy and colourful affair, with the long main street, Derrick Avenue, filled with streetside food stalls and Cyrildene’s many restaurants all offer special festive menus (book well in advance for a table, see our Cyrildene feature for some suggestions on where to eat). In the early evening a long parade begins to wind its way up the street, led by a colourful Chinese lion who is followed by dancers in traditional costume and a long, dancing Chinese dragon. Cymbals crash and firecrackers flare as the lion visits every business along the street. Chinese New Year in Cyrildene is a busy, noisy and exciting affair – watch out for the many wayward fireworks! – that makes for a most memorable cultural experience.