Lunar New Year is usually celebrated with vibrant festivals around the country, featuring Asian food stalls, lion dancing, and cultural performances.

It’s a special time comparable to Christmas on the Asian calendar, with more than a million Australians, mostly from the Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese communities, coming together to celebrate their cultures and traditions.

However, the upcoming holiday from February 12 to 26 will look very different from previous years, with many public events either cancelled, scaled back or moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Here are the festivals still expected to go ahead across the capital cities to usher in the Year of the Ox.

Due to possible changes to coronavirus restrictions, please check the event or council website for updates.


The annual Lunar New Year celebration in Sydney usually attracts up to 1.5 million visitors, making it the largest event of its kind outside of Asia.

This year the City of Sydney has planned more than 80 events and attractions from February 12-21, including socially-distanced markets, lantern lighting, exhibitions and cultural performances.

Some local councils, including Parramatta and Fairfield, have cancelled their usual outdoor events, while others are pushing ahead with theirs.

Dance groups will impress spectators with traditional costumes.(Supplied: City of Sydney)

Georges River Council has greenlighted the Little Lunar night markets from 5:30pm to 9:00pm on February 19 at Hurstville Plaza, which will feature Asian food stalls and cultural performances.

Willoughby Council’s activities include a Chinese New Year Cultural Celebration Concert at The Concourse Theatre in Chatswood on February 20, followed by an inaugural Lunar New Year Comedy festival on February 27.

“This vibrant festival will be a fantastic opportunity for visitors to show their support for local businesses and come together to celebrate the Lunar New Year,” Willoughby City Council Mayor Gail Giles-Gidney said.

Australian artist Louise Zhang says she’s proud that Lunar New Year is celebrated widely in Sydney.(ABC News: Samuel Yang)

Chinese-Australian artist Louise Zhang is involved in Precious Treasures, an exhibition of paintings, sculptures and installations curated by high-profile contemporary Chinese artist Guan Wei.

For Ms Zhang, Lunar New Year is another Christmas, but she won’t be able to travel back to China to celebrate the holiday with her extended family this year.

“It is kind of our Christmas time … it’s going to be filled with food,” she said.

“Not as many family this year though, that doesn’t mean we’re not thinking of them, and they’re not thinking of us.

“It’s a good reminder to check in, especially when you have a big family.”

Zodiac lanterns are among some iconic Lunar New Year decorations in Sydney.(Supplied: City of Sydney)

Vietnamese NSW president Paul Nguyen told the ABC the organisation had called off the annual Vietnamese festival at Fairfield Showground.

But he said the public is welcome to pray at the Vietnamese Community Cultural Centre in Bonnyrigg, in Sydney’s west, on February 13.

“We have been resilient throughout the unprecedented and challenging year of 2020, the community is very hopeful for a better 2021,” he said.

Sari Young (left) says her family will gather to mark Lunar New Year.(Supplied: Sari Young)

The Indonesian Buddhist Society in New South Wales will also celebrate differently this year.

There will be no Lunar New Year traditions like cleaning up sessions at the temple or gatherings for a hotpot lunch.

“Due to the uncertainty, we have to cancel events that we have planned,” committee member Sari Young said, adding they will instead celebrate at home.

“For me, Lunar New Year has a significant meaning — that is to be grateful.”

Ms Young said it had been almost a year since the society was forced to shut due to COVID-19 restrictions, but they had continued their community services, including providing free meals for struggling families and individuals.


Lunar New Year celebrations in Melbourne will be more subdued this year.

The annual festivity in Melbourne’s Chinatown runs from February 11-14, and will feature a Lunar New Year’s Eve countdown, cultural performances and an outdoor cinema.

But there’ll be no Millennium Dragon parade through Chinatown, which is one of the world’s largest, due to fears of another coronavirus outbreak.

Lunar New Year has been celebrated by Melbourne’s Chinese community for more than 160 years, and it’s the first year that the iconic dragon parade has been cancelled since 1979.

Together with firecrackers, lion and dragon dances are an integral part of Lunar New Year celebrations across Australia.(ABC News: Jarrod Fankhauser)

Organisers said while they were disappointed that the pandemic would dampen this year’s celebrations, they did not want to be responsible for an outbreak.

“Everything has been scaled down, we are not even having any food stalls,” organiser Eng Lim, president of the Melbourne Dai Loong Association, told the ABC.

Ms Lim says members of Melbourne Chinatown will virtually meet their counterparts from San Francisco Chinatown to support each other in spirit during LNY.(ABC News: Kristian Silva)

Several suburban Lunar New Year festivals have been cancelled because of the pandemic.

The Vietnamese Tet Festival, which draws up to 30,000 people, is pushing ahead with their plans for February 6 and 7 — although the entire event will be streamed online.

Lunar New Year is called Tet in Vietnamese. In Chinese, it goes by the name Chunjie, which means Spring Festival, and the holiday period is known as Solnal in Korean.

The festival’s general manager, Damien Nguyen, said his team used a $35,000 grant from the Victorian Government to create high-quality, pre-recorded videos showcasing the event’s highlights.

“The adapt, overcome and improvise mantra came in and we did just that,” he said.

Some event creators like Damien Nguyen will take their celebrations online this year.(ABC News: Kristian Silva)

The team filmed a traditional lion dance and created recipe and origami tutorials.

They also recorded concerts and the festival’s infamous “iron stomach” challenge — where Mr Nguyen said competitors ate “disgusting” combinations of food for a cash prize.

“I’d like to see the festival come back as a physical event because that is what people expect from us,” he said.

“One of the key elements we couldn’t translate online was our carnival rides, and that’s always a big hit.”

On Wednesday, a 26-year-old worker at a Melbourne quarantine hotel returned a positive COVID-19 test, prompting the State Government to tighten its COVID restrictions.

Anh Nguyen says on Lunar New Year’s Eve she normally writes down her wishes and cleans her house.(Supplied: Anh Nguyen)

Some community members have already shied away from attending public events this year over coronavirus fears.

Anh Nguyen, a Vietnamese migrant from Preston, north of Melbourne, decided not to attend the Victoria Street Lunar Festival in Richmond.

She said she planned to celebrate Lunar New Year with her family at home, cooking traditional dishes like spring rolls and poached chicken, writing wishes and cleaning the house.

Ms Nguyen and her Singapore-born husband converted to Islam years ago, but they said they still celebrated Lunar New Year to maintain their sense of identity and cultural heritage.

“We will have a big feast, we will cook our traditional food.”


Tasmanians won’t be able to enjoy the festivities as much as other Australians this Lunar New Year, after celebrations were cancelled altogether.

Event volunteers said they didn’t have the capacity and resources to manage large outdoor gatherings while adhering to all COVID-19 health measures.

“It’s very sad and very disappointing,” Brian Chung, from Chinese Community Association Tasmania, told the ABC.

The community came together last year to celebrate Lunar New Year.(Supplied: Chinese Community Association Tasmania)

Mr Chung is a fourth-generation Chinese Australian. His great grandfather emigrated to Australia in the late 1800s.

He said Australia was becoming more culturally diverse and that Lunar New Year celebrations were being embraced by a broader community in Tasmania.

“We didn’t have [a Lunar] New Year Festival 20 or 30 years ago, there weren’t that many Chinese people here anyway, but also the community probably wasn’t that aware of the Chinese festival.

“It’s been growing and becoming very popular, very well supported by the general community.”

He said the Association changed the name of the festival from Chinese New Year Festival to Lunar New Year Festival, so that it included more Asian Australians, especially those from the Korean and Vietnamese communities.

Christmas Island

Christmas Island is the only place in Australia that enjoys two public holidays for Lunar New Year.

For the 1,800 local residents, this year would be business as usual, as the island so far has been untouched by the virus.

Embraced by all ethnic groups, the annual celebration will run for 15 days and feature three major events: Lunar New Year Eve Festival, Chap Goh Meh, and lion dances.

Chap Goh Meh, a Hokkien dialect name, is commonly known as lantern festival in South-East Asia.

Coronavirus-free Christmas Island is one of Australia’s most diverse places.(Supplied: Christmas Island Kung Fu Association)

Chris Su, president of the Christmas Island Kung Fu Association, is one of the organisers this year.

He said the way local residents celebrated Lunar New Year on Christmas Island was similar to Malaysia and Singapore because the island had a rich history of migration from those countries.

“We’ve been so fortunate and lucky really, to not have been impacted … by the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.

“We’re performing at the two events as well as doing a midnight run around the island in utes, banging on our drums and cymbals to ring in the new year.”

A Lunar New Year concert was held inside Christmas Island’s detention centre for the Australians evacuated from Wuhan a year ago.(Supplied)


Western Australia went into a five-day lockdown last week after a hotel security guard working at the Four Points by Sheraton Perth tested positive to coronavirus.

Now the Perth Chinese New Year Fair 2021, which was planned to be held on Sunday, February 14 from 12:00pm to 9:00pm in Northbridge, is up in the air.

Event organisers said they were still anxiously following updates on the health advice in Perth.

“At this stage we will have to wait … we assume [February 14] will be OK until we hear anything different,” Ting Chen, president of Chung Wah Association, told the ABC.

Perth’s Lunar New Year celebration usually draws big crowds in the city.(Supplied: Chung Wah Association)

If the event goes ahead, it will be the 10th fair since its inauguration in 2012.

The plan is for the event to kick off with the lighting of firecrackers, and performances from Chung Wah Lion and Dragon Dance Troupe parading through James Street to the Perth Cultural Centre.

The fair is expected to feature food and beverages from across China, along with performing arts, sports, activities and games.


Brisbane’s BrisAsia Festival is on now until February 28.

There will be more than 30 diverse events across 20 suburbs, including the popular Lunar New Year lion dance in Chinatown Mall.

It will also feature Rare Voices, a live traditional music event at SunPAC, and Crescent Moon, a dance, theatre and music presentation at Seven Hills.

Brisbane Holi is a celebration of colour, dance and music.(Supplied: Kim Borg)

The City of Brisbane said all events would be in line with Queensland Health’s safety guidelines, with enhanced safety measures and cleaning in place across all venues, and QR codes to be used to assist with contact tracing.

“Brisbane residents have been missing the festival atmosphere and there’s no better way to ring in the Chinese New Year than with the much-loved BrisAsia festival,” Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said.


The Lunar New Year Street Party will be held on February 20 from 12:00pm to 9:00pm at the city’s Chinatown precinct near Gouger Street.

The annual community event features many exhibitors and entertainers from a wide variety of Asian cultural groups, showcasing their traditions through art.

Musicians and dancers will be rocking a red stage in Chinatown throughout the day.

Dozens of cultural dances from the Chinese, Indonesian, Ukrainian, Cambodian and Nepalese communities will perform this year.(Supplied: Chinatown Adelaide of South Australia)

Organisers said the event had a COVID-safe plan in place, including a QR code from SA Health to enable contract tracing, to control the number of patrons at events and to help people maintain social distancing.

“Worst case scenario, the event will [be livestreamed] on social media and YouTube for the public to view the performances,” Herman Chin, an organiser and president of Chinatown Adelaide of South Australia, told the ABC.


A Lunar New Year festival will be held at the Sakyamuni Buddhist Centre in Lyneham on February 11, which will attract people from the Vietnamese, Chinese and broader Asian community.

The celebration will include gourmet vegetarian food stalls, New Year gifts for guests, prayers, speeches and cultural performances from the Prosperous Mountain Lion Dance troupe.

Separately, children can make their own Year of Ox coin boxes at the Royal Australian Mint.

Chinese feasts are offered across several ACT restaurants.


The Darwin Chinese New Year Festival wrapped up this week.

It featured an indoor market filled with food stalls, live entertainment, dance troupes and cooking classes.