CNY Survival Guide 2014: 8 ways in which CNY is celebrated differently overseas

Singapore is among numerous countries in Asia which celebrate the Lunar New Year. Malaysians, not surprisingly, share a lot in common with Singaporeans in terms of customs and traditions. Here are how people from four other parts of Asia celebrate the festivities:

8 things about Chinese New Year in Indonesia

1. Imlek

Chinese New Year is known as Imlek - the Hokkien pronunciation for "yin li" or lunar calendar.

2. Selamat Hari Raya

Don't be surprised if someone greets you "Selamat Hari Raya" during Chinese New Year. The greeting means happy festive day in Bahasa Indonesia, and is used for all major festivals.

3. Special prayers

Although Chinese New Year is not a religious celebration, Chinese Indonesians mark the festival at temples, churches and mosques with special prayers, depending on their religions.

4. Festive goodies

Kue ketan, also known as 'nian gao' or sweet glutinous rice cakes in some parts of Asia, are a part of Imlek celebrations. Indonesian Chinese also serve kue lapis, an Indonesian layered cake, to their guests. The layers of the cake symbolise the ladder to achievement during the coming year.

5. Lontong Imlek

This is a popular dish during Chinese New Year. It is lontong (rice cake) served with dishes like opor ayam (chicken in coconut milk), sayur lodeh (vegetable in coconut milk), sambal goreng ati (beef liver in sambal) and telur pindang (hard boiled eggs)

6. Pecinan bazaars

Most major cities like Jakarta, Surabaya, Solo and Semarang have Chinatowns, known as 'pecinan', where Imlek celebrations are at their liveliest, with street bazaars selling goodies in the run-up to the big day, and featuring dragon and lion dances, known as 'barongsai'.

7. 15th year of celebrations

This is the 15th year that Chinese New Year will be celebrated openly after the hiatus of the Suharto years, when open festivities were banned for over three decades and Chinese were urged to take on Indonesian names.

8. One-day holiday

Chinese New Year is just a one-day holiday in Indonesia. In fact, the festival became a national holiday only in 2000. Based on the 2010 census, some 3.7 per cent of the population, or 8.8 million people, said they were Chinese, making them the third-largest ethnic group after Javanese and Sundanese, and just ahead of Malays.

Compiled by Zakir Hussain

8 things about Chinese New Year in China

1. Ya sui qian

Red packet is known as "ya sui qian" in China and is given to children who are still in school. Those who have entered the workforce don't get any red packet, even if they are unmarried. In fact, singles who have a job typically give red packets to the younger generation.

2. Week-long holiday

The Chinese New Year public holiday in China lasts for a week. Millions of Chinese crowd the trains, planes, buses and roads to make their annual exodus home across the country to celebrate the festival with their families.

3. Big bang

Firecrackers are set off at the stroke of midnight on New Year's eve. Tradition has it that firecrackers will help drive away evil spirits and bring in good luck.

4. No gifts of oranges in the north

The tradition of exchanging mandarin oranges is not practised in northern parts of China like Beijing. Instead, gifts such as fruits or biscuits are brought along when visiting elders. Some southern provinces such as Guangdong still observe this tradition.

5. Dumplings

Dumpling is one of the most important festive food in China and is eaten on the eve and fifth day of Chinese New Year, mainly in the northern parts. Many families gather to wrap dumplings which symbolise wealth as their shape resembles gold ingots.

6. Tang hu lu

Tang hu lu, or sugar-coated fruits on a long skewer, is a popular snack during the festival, even though they are sold throughout the year, especially during the cold season. They are traditionally made with hawthorns, but now fruits like strawberries, blueberries, pineapples and grapes are also used. For many people, tang hu lu is an auspicious symbol and highlight of the traditional temple fairs held during Chinese New Year. Those sold at the Changdian Temple Fair in Xuanwu District in Beijing have gained a reputation for being the most auspicious ones of all.

7. Paper-cutting

One of China's most famous folk arts, paper-cutting is very popular during Chinese New Year. It involves the use of scissors to cut designs, as well as new year greetings and Chinese characters like "wealth" and "prosperity" on red paper. Chinese believe red paper-cuts on the door can bring good luck and happiness to the whole family. Paper cuts are also given as gifts.

8. CCTV gala

CCTV's Spring Festival gala, or chun wan, is a must-watch television programme for many not only in China but also overseas. It's reportedly watched by an average viewership of 400 million to 750 million people every year and is said to have the largest audience of any entertainment shows in the world.

Compiled by Esther Teo

8 things about Chinese New Year in Taiwan

1. Fat red packets

Taiwanese are generous when it comes to red packets for children. The "standard" rate ranges between NT$1,000 (S$42) and NT$2,000 - a substantial sum considering the average pay is about NT$48,000.

2. Six to nine days of holidays

Taiwanese traditionally get six to nine days off, starting from Chinese New Year's eve. But the nine-day extended break is usually compensated by the following Saturday designated as a work day.

3. Central kitchen

Instead of toiling in the kitchen for hours to cook the reunion dinner, many families now order theirs from one of 10,000 convenience shops dotting the island. The meals come as frozen or ready-to-eat dishes, from simple fare like carrot cake to more expensive dishes like buddha jumps over the wall.

4. Lamps of good hope

Hundreds of thousands of devotees swamp Buddhist and Taoist temples on Chinese New Year's eve to light a lamp. The lamps are divided into several categories, each serving a different function. The most popular Brilliance lamp is believed to bring general good luck, the Medicinal lamp is for its supposed curative powers and so on. Major temples like Longshan in Taipei start giving out queue numbers for the lighting ceremony as early as five weeks before Chinese New Year.

5. Sky lanterns

Thousands of people flock to Pinghsi town in New Taipei City to release sky lanterns or tian deng on the 15th day of the New Year which marks the end of festivities. A person will write his or her name, wishes, hopes and even address on a large lantern. A stack of paper attached to its base is then set alight, which creates hot air that pushes the lantern into the sky.

6. Cherry blossom

The roads to Yangmingshan, the dormant volcano in Taipei, are paved with scooters and cars during Chinese New Year as it coincides with the cherry blossom season. Visitors are rewarded by the sight of thousands of pink and white flowers after enduring hours of heavy traffic.

7. Goodie bags

Many stores stay open throughout the new year season. On New Year's Day, long lines form outside departmental stores like Shinkong Mitsukoshi as Taiwanese await their chance to grab one of the many "Bags of Fortune" or fu dai. It's a goodie bag packed with products and vouchers with a total value a few times more than the price of the package. Also enclosed is a lucky draw coupon for prizes ranging from mobile phones to cars.

8. Zodiac game

In rural areas in southern Taiwan, some residents play cards printed with colourful images of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. The aim of the game is to amass a complete set of the zodiac, or four sets of three cards printed with the same animal.

Compiled by Lee Seok Hwai

8 things about Chinese New Year in Hong Kong

1. Lai See

Red packets are known as "lai see" - Cantonese for "to prosper". The amount of money does not have to be much - the usual rate is around HK$20 (S$3), but the bank notes and the red packets must be new. Bosses, whether married or not, have to give lai see to their staff to encourage them to work hard in the new year.

2. New Year horse racing

This race, usually held on the third day of the Chinese New Year, is Hong Kong's most popular horse racing event. Thousands of excited fans gather at Sha Tin Racecourse to watch the race and entertainment programmes including lion dance and cultural performances.

3. Wishing trees

Hong Kongers and tourists write down their wishes on a piece of joss paper, tie it to a plastic orange, and throw it into trees next to two 700-year-old trees called the Wishing Trees at Lam Tsuen in Tai Po. It's believed that the higher the branch the joss paper lands on, the more likely one's wish will come true.

4. Wheels of fortune

The Che Kung temple in Tai Wai area of Sha Tin is especially popular during Chinese New Year for its "wheels of fortune". Visitors spin the copper fan-shaped wheels in the temple clockwise three times for good luck.

5. Flower market

It is a tradition for families to fight the crowds at the Flower Market at Victoria Park the week before the Chinese New Year to buy plants and decorative items. Different plants represent different meanings. The most popular ones are peach blossom plants, symbolising a good marriage, and kumquat - its Cantonese name "gam gat" sound like that for "good luck".

6. New Year night parade

On the first day of the Chinese New Year, crowds gather at the Tsim Sha Tsui harbourfront to watch the night parade - the biggest event during the festival. Lion dance troupes, international performers, popular Disneyland cartoon characters and colourful floats turn the parade into a big outdoor party.

7, Chinese New Year fireworks

On the second day, a giant fireworks display is held at Victoria Harbour. The show, usually lasting around 20 minutes, is believed to be one of the most spectacular fireworks displays in the world. Chinese believe firecrackers will scare away evil spirits and help bring good luck in the coming year.

8. Faux black moss

Hong Kongers like to eat black moss as its name "fatt choi" sounds similar to "struck it rich" in Cantonese. But over-harvesting of black moss has led to desertification in northern parts of China where the plant is from and the Hong Kong government has banned it from official functions. Most Hong Kongers now eat artificially made "moss" or brown algae.

Compiled by Pearl Liu