Chinese New Year in Johannesburg

11 Feb 2024
The Chinese Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, starts on Sat, Feb 10, 2024, and marks the transition from one zodiac animal to the next. This year marks the end of the year of the Rabbit as it gives way to the year of the Wood Dragon which, depending on your zodiac, could make it either lucky or unlucky (if you want to find out what the Year of the Wood Dragon means for you, check your zodiac sign here). 

The festival starts with a day dedicated to cleaning and making room for good luck and then follows with prayers, family meals, parades, and fireworks. Joburg’s Chinese community always makes sure to celebrate with cultural performances, fireworks, and plenty of delicious food and the events are spread through the weekends after Sat, Feb 10.

This year the Chinese New Year and Lantern Festival as planned for Sat, Feb 24 by the community of First Chinatown on Commissioner Street will not take place as the event has unfortunately been cancelled. But, not all is lost and the festivities continue elsewhere. Read on to find out where you can join the celebrations.

Sunday, February 11

Nan Hua Temple's annual Chinese New Year Celebrations. Photo: Supplied.

Nan Hua Temple Chinese New Year Cultural Festival

The magnificent Nan Hua Temple (located in Bronkhorstspruit, about an hour's drive to the northeast of Joburg) was donated by Taiwanese Buddhists when Taiwan had close ties with South Africa and is the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere. The temple's annual Chinese New Year celebration is a traditional and fun cultural experience for the whole family. This year's celebrations are planned for Sun, Feb 11 from 09:30 – 15:00. The day begins with a light offering ceremony followed by an opening ceremony, a Chinese cultural festival, and multicultural performances (including martial arts performances and Indian dancing). Throughout the day visitors can enjoy an array of Chinese, Cantonese, and Taiwanese food, the lantern display, and Chinese Zodiac painting. 

Saturday, February 17

Dragon dancing in Cyrildene. Photo by Mark Straw.

Chinese New Year in Cyrildene

Cyrildene, Joburg's biggest Chinatown, will have its official street party on Sat, Feb 17 from 16:30 – 21:30. Enjoy Chinese dragon and lion dances, cultural performances, and a Chinese national costume parade. Many of the restaurants there will be open for bookings and the street is sure to be alive with colour, lights, and noise as residents celebrate the New Year. Cyrildene’s fireworks are always a memorable affair (watch your head), and January 1st displays pale in comparison. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from, and with New Year being the community's biggest event, tables get booked up well in advance. Some recommended Cyrildene restaurants offering festive New Year dinner packages, and streetside tables with good views of the parade include: Shun De (+27 11 615 1269) and Diao Yu Dao (+27 11 615 1715), or for a typical Chinese hotpot try Chong Qing Hot Pot which has a balcony overlooking the street (+27 83 554 3054).
PRON's bright décor. Photo: Supplied.

Celebrate at home

If you’d prefer to mark the arrival of the Year of the Wood Dragon with friends and family at home you can stock up on lanterns, red ornaments, and hard-to-find Chinese ingredients for a home-cooked meal at Sui Hing Hong in First Chinatown. Or get a takeaway feast to enjoy at home with the family. Some of our favourite, authentic Chinese restaurants include the classic Cantonese yum cha restaurant Shun De in Cyrildene, Emma Chen's always excellent Red Chamber in Hyde Park Corner, and her more casual noodle restaurant PRON (People's Republic of Noodles) in Linden. A highly underrated spot is Kung Fu Kitchen in Bedfordview (also known as Tong Lok in a previous incarnation).

If you are still looking to get a few more things to ring in the New Year you can buy pretty much anything at one of Joburg's many China Malls. If you want to give your home a new lick of colour with some lanterns, or perhaps a sparkly new Chinese horoscope calendar, China Mall is a good place to start. If you are planning to give any New Year gifts to mark the Year of the Wood Dragon, remember red is the luckiest colour in Chinese tradition, and we could all use a bit of luck right now. In particular, it is common in Chinese tradition to exchange red envelopes containing 'lucky money' (especially gold or silver coins) to mark the New Year.

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