Lunar New Year in the city

At Play Cultural Heart

Lunar New Year is the most significant festival on the Chinese lunar calendar and is a time when tradition is honoured and practiced. In Adelaide, this important annual cultural event is recognised with celebrations showcasing time-honoured rituals, music, art and food.

Having said to cause the world’s largest annual mass human migration, families from different places reunite to usher in the New Year. Families gather together to pay respects to elders and ancestors, share meals, exchange stories, good wishes and simply have fun.

In 2020, Lunar New Year runs from 25 January to 8 February. The city will ring in the celebrations with colourful street banners, lanterns and the ever-popular lion dance performances.

Year of the Rat (or Mouse)

Adelaide living lunar new year 2020

Based on the Chinese Zodiac, each year is represented by an animal and element that recurs every 12 years. 2020 is the Year of the Metal Rat (or Mouse).

Unlike Western history where rats (or mice) have a negative association with dirt and disease, the rat in the Chinese Zodiac has a much more positive one. As the first animal to reach the finish line of the race set by the Jade Emperor, the rat in Chinese culture is seen as a sign of wealth and surplus. It’s often said that individuals born in the Year of the Rat are intelligent, industrious, and diligent.

Animals signs are determined by birth years. If you were born in 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, or just joined the planet on, or after 25 January 2020, this is your year to celebrate!

Rat or mouse?

Is it the Year of the Rat, or Mouse? Well, it's actually both!

In the Chinese language, both rat and mouse (鼠 (Shǔ)) are written and spoken in the same way, making no differentiation between either animal.

Signs of the Time

There are many symbolic items associated with Lunar New Year. Here are just a few you are likely to spot this January.

Lunar New Year Lion Dance

Lion dance

A lion dance during Lunar New Year is something many look forward to every year, with itsskilful dancers (often times they are martial arts students), ornate ‘lions’, and traditional musical instruments.

The lion dance is one of the most important traditions during Lunar New Year celebrations. Superstition has it that the dances are meant to scare away bad spirits, and help usher in prosperity and good luck for the upcoming year. With its loud and often thunderous drumming, lion dances are a sure way to create a festive atmosphere.



These tasty little treats can be found any time of the year but enjoying them during Lunar New Year is especially rewarding as they represent wealth and prosperity. It’s said the dumpling’s shape resembles a gold or silver ingot, the currencies of yesteryear. By serving and eating them during the New Year, you’re inviting good fortune into your life for the year ahead.

Red Lanterns

Red lanterns

Lanterns are a familiar sight during Lunar New Year for good reason. Hanging red lanterns at home or in places of business symbolises the invitation of joy and good fortune. Red is an auspicious colour representing good energy, luck and happiness.

Mandarin Oranges

Mandarin oranges

This sweet citrus fruit is a must during Lunar New Year. A symbol of prosperity and abundance for those celebrating through the festive season, they’re often displayed as decorations and exchanged during family visits. If you’re planning on offering mandarin oranges this Lunar New Year, be sure to bundle them in even numbers. Odd numbers are perceived as bad luck.

Discover more about Lunar New Year events and celebrations happening in the city in 2020.

Article by

Michelle Chee

Michelle Chee

Your neighbourhood human being.

Michelle considers herself lucky to be able to call Adelaide home. As a migrant, she's passionate about sharing experiences of others who have also chosen this beautiful city as their place to live.