Chinese New Year in the Joburg Inner City

Dragons and lanterns decorate the streets of johannesburg

Joburg is a unique city in that it has 2 Chinatowns: one in Cyrildene and the original Chinatown in the Joburg Inner City. I absolutely love the original Chinatown, maybe because it is in the city or perhaps because of its fabulous history, amazing culture and awesome residents.  Situated on Commissioner Street, the area has been inhabited by Joburg’s original Chinese community from around the early 1900’s.

Chinese New Year is one of the biggest events on the Chinese Calendar and I was lucky enough to take part in the festivities happening in Old Chinatown. Commissioner Street came alive with red lanterns, gold dragons, music and the smell of delicious traditional delicacies.

Lanterns being sent off into the Jozi Sky

The event started at 18h00 and went on into the night, with a host of really fabulous traditions taking place from the dragon dance to the release of lanterns into the night sky. People were encouraged to buy the lanterns and write their wishes on them. To see the hundreds of lanterns released over the Jozi skyline was an absolutely unforgettable experience.

No trip to Chinatown is complete without a taste of local refreshments and this night was no different, from soft and sticky fried bean paste dumplings to crispy fresh springrolls – it was just yummy. And for those brave enough to sample Goji Berry wine it was available, freshly brewed by one of the local shopkeepers…what a kick!

To end off the evening there was the most fabulous fireworks display set to a range of music from Queen to classical. The fireworks went on forever and I found myself not only watching them but also the faces of the people around me, a mixture of races, ages and backgrounds, sitting and standing on the streets of downtown Joburg embracing a culture that has made Joburg its own from the very beginning. It was also amazing to see so many people coming into the Joburg Inner City once again, after decades of fear and degeneration. It gives me so much hope for our wonderful city and its amazing and resilient inhabitants. I can’t wait till next year!


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