Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, is celebrated at the turn of the traditional Lunisolar calendar. This New Year is not only celebrated by the Chinese, it is also celebrated by many other Asian countries like Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Laos and Singapore, therefore in this post I will refer to it as Lunar New Year.
This year, Lunar New Year’s Day falls on Saturday 28th January.
The Lunar calendar is based on the movement of the moon so, unlike the Gregorian calendar (which is globally used), there are a different number of days per month and a different number of days per year in comparison. Hence, if we go by the Gregorian calendar, Lunar New Year falls on a different date every year. This year, Lunar New Year’s Day falls on Saturday 28th January.
Lunar New Year is my favourite time of year as I love the festivities that are held throughout the period. I call it a period because preparations for the new year start weeks before New Year’s Day and ends on the 15th of the first Lunar month.
What’s Happening In and Around Sydney
In Sydney, there are events held throughout the city and suburbs. It is a fun time of year and events are open to the public. If you are from Sydney, here are some events you should mark down in your calendar:
Sydney CBD celebrations: 27th January -12th February
Bankstown celebrations: 21st January, 4pm-9pm
Bella Vista Farm Lunar Festival: 29th January, 12pm-9pm
Burwood celebrations: 11th February, 9am-9pm
Cabramatta celebrations: 11th-12th February, 9am-4pm
Carriageworks Night Market curated by Kylie Kwong: 28th January, 5pm-10pm, $10
Chatswood celebrations: 4th February, 10am-5pm
Eastwood celebrations: 11th February, 11am-4pm
Hurstville celebrations: 4th February, 10am-4pm
Kogarah celebrations: 9th February, 6pm-8:30pm
Lane Cove celebrations: 3rd February, 4pm-6:30pm
North Rocks Shopping Centre: 28th January, 11am-2pm
Parramatta celebrations: 3rd February, 4:30pm-9:30pm
Rockdale celebrations: 3rd February
Sydney Vietnamese New Year TET Festival 2017 at Fairfield Showground: 3rd-5th February, 5pm-10:30pm (Adults $7, Child $5)
Wentworth Point: 4th February, from 6pm
Sydney Buddhist Temples Directory
The above festivals are lots of fun and a great way to introduce the festivities to the wider community. I usually try to attend one of the above festivals if I have time, but it’s not something I MUST DO.
Traditionally, I usually celebrate the new year with a reunion dinner with family before the turn of the new year and then I visit relatives homes during the 2 weeks following New Year’s Day. New Year’s Eve is my favourite, as I usually visit temples where I can pray for good luck, eat some yummy vegetarian food, enjoy lion and dragon dance performances, talk (or scream) amongst the firecrackers and top off the night with a beautiful fireworks display. If you are after a more traditional experience, check out one of the local temples listed below. BE WARNED: They get very busy on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Most of them should be opened through the entire Spring Festival period which ends Mid February.
The temples listed below are the ones I visit most often. There are of course many other temples that are not yet on this list, but I will gradually add them in as I visit them and gather information about them. Check back if this is something that interests you.
Sze Yup Temple
2 Edward St, Glebe
Also known as the Glebe Temple, Sze Yup Temple is one of the oldest Chinese Taoist temples in Sydney. Built in 1898 and surviving a fire in 2008, this temple is one of four pre-World War I Chinese temples that still remain active in Australia. It is recognised as a site of state heritage by the New South Wales government.
This temple is dedicated to Kuan Ti (Guan Di), a Chinese military hero from the Three Kingdoms Period. Therefore the temple houses a central shrine dedicated to Kuan Ti, as well as a hall for ancestors and a hall for the God of Wealth.
This temple is dedicated to Kuan Ti (Guan Di), a Chinese military hero from the Three Kingdoms Period
Kuan Ti is seen as a god of war, protection, chivalry and prosperity believed to protect people from evil demons and the unjust, some also believe he could tell the future. He is a favourite amongst businessmen, students, people involved with legal issues and people in dangerous jobs (police and soldiers especially). He is often depicted in popular culture as the god of choice for gangsters due to his chivalrous nature and ability to protect.
Many people from China, Hong Kong and Vietnam like to visit this temple.
The temple usually celebrates Lunar New Year’s Eve with lion dancing and firecrackers from 11pm onwards.
Mingyue Lay Temple
654 Cabramatta Road, Bonnyrigg
Mingyue Lay is one of the largest Chinese Buddhist Temples in the Southern Hemisphere. The temple started off as a small fibro building in 1982, before it was expanded and constructed into the huge complex it is today. It is visited mainly by buddhists from Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.
…one of the largest Chinese Buddhist Temples in the Southern Hemisphere.
The temple consists of 4 main halls: the Main Shrine, the Temple of Immortals, the Gallery of Ancestors and the Community hall. The Main Shrine houses 37 bronze buddhas, a shrine for the God of Wealth, the Three Buddhas, Kuan Yin and The God of the Underworld. There is also a huge Kuan Yin Statue at the centre of a water fountain in the courtyard.
Kuan Ti, whom I mentioned earlier also has a shrine at Mingyue lay. It is located in the Temple Of Immortals, which houses shrines for other men and women that have done great deeds in their life, earning them titles as gods.
Note: I have always been told it is disrespectful to take photos of shrines, so I’ve only taken photos of the outside of the temple. You will definitely need to visit and see it for yourself.
Lunar New Year’s Eve is completely packed at this temple. There are usually food stalls, lion and dragon dancing, firecrackers in the evening followed by fireworks at midnight.
Kuan Yin Temple
2 Second Avenue, Canley Vale
The Kuan Yin temple in Canley Vale consists of 3 buildings that house shrines for Kuan Yin, Kuan Di, the God of Wealth, Buddha, Tin Hou (Goddess of Sea), Buddha Manjustri and Buddha Samantabhadra.
The Kuan Yin temple in Canley Vale is mainly dedicated to Kuan Yin. Kuan Yin, also known as the Goddess of Mercy, is especially popular in China and Vietnam. Worshipped especially by women, this goddess comforts the troubled, the sick, the lost, the senile and the unfortunate. She is also regarded as the protector of seafarers, farmers and travelers. She cares for souls in the underworld, and is invoked during post-burial rituals to free the soul of the deceased from the torments of purgatory.
Kuan Yin…the Goddess of Mercy…comforts the troubled, the sick, the lost, the senile and the unfortunate.
Many pray to her because they believe she is the most likely to answer prayers. It is said she gave up the right to enter Nirvana when at the the gates of paradise she heard a cry of anguish from earth and decided to turn back. She did not ignore the cry and gave up her reward, giving her the name Kuan Yin, which literally means ‘One who sees and hears all‘.
I usually spend Lunar New Year’s Eve at this temple. There are food stalls, with really good food, lion dancing, firecrackers and fireworks displays at both 9:30pm and midnight. As they have a park with a walking path situated behind the temple, there is plenty of space to set off fireworks, the fireworks display is very beautiful and you feel like you are really close to it, with fireworks exploding above you.
Chua Phuoc Hue
365 Victoria St, Wetherill Park
Chua Phuoc Hue is one of the biggest Vietnamese Buddhist Temples in Australia and also, in my opinion, one of the prettiest. With beautifully landscaped gardens, elegant gates, colourful statues and a pagoda tower, you can see a lot of planning was put into designing this temple.
Some notable sculptures on the grounds of this temple include, the beautiful Goddess of Mercy that sits atop a lotus inside a lotus pond and the Shakyamuni Buddha sitting in meditation under a tree.
It is said that Buddha was 29 years old when he began his quest for enlightenment. It took him 6 years, before he finally settled into a meditative state under a bodhi tree and reached enlightenment. We can see symbolism of this event represented at Chua Phuoc Hue.
Lunar New Year, known to Vietnamese as Tet, is celebrated with lion and dragon dancing, firecrackers and fireworks at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Tien Hau Temple
124 Railway Parade, Canley Vale
The Tien Hau temple is a small temple in Canley Vale close to the train station. It is dedicated to Tien Hau, the Goddess of the Sea. She is very popular amongst Taiwanese, Fujianese and Hakka people.
Tien Hau, also known as Mazu, was a Fujianese shamaness named Lin Mo or Lin Mo Liang, who became glorified as a god after her death. She is worshipped largely in China’s coastal regions and Chinese communities throughout South East Asia and is seen as a protector for seafarers (fishermen and sailors). She is thought to roam the seas, protecting her believers. In China, Mazuism is considered a cult even though there are shrines dedicated to her in some Buddhist temples.
Tien Hau…is worshipped largely in China’s coastal regions and Chinese communities throughout South East Asia and is seen as a protector for seafarers…
During the New Year period, you can visit this temple to get a lucky charm which has been blessed. Keep this on you for safety all year round. If your zodiac sign is bad luck this year (rooster, rabbit, rat and dog), you can also come here to receive blessings to hopefully reverse this bad luck.
Wong Tai Sin Temple
18-20 Liverpool Road Summer Hill
Named after the famous Wong Tai Sin Temple in Hong Kong, the Sydney Wong Tai Sin houses the Buddhist Bodhisattva of Kwan Yin on the top level and the the Taoist deity of Wong Tai Sin on the lower level. The temple in Hong Kong is famed for the many prayers that have been answered there.
Wong Tai Sin is the divine form of Huang Cho Ping, a shepherd boy who, through practicing Taoism, was said to be able to turn stones into sheep. He is believed to be a god of healing and many people with sicknesses and ailments pray to him for better health.
Come offer him a joss stick during the New Year for a good year of health.
Wishing You A Happy New Year!
Check back often for updates to this Sydney Buddhist Temples directory as I add more temples to it. If you have a temple to recommend, leave me the details in the comments below. Wishing you all a safe and prosperous New Year.