China’s 5 best places to celebrate Chinese New Year
There’s no better time for visiting China than Chinese New Year. The most important holiday in the Chinese calendar, it lasts for 15 festive days. 16 days, if you also count Chinese New Year’s Eve – which we certainly do. The Eve is often the time of the best parades and firework displays.
So start planning what to bring abroad with you and check out our five favourite cities for celebrating Chinese New Year.
What is Chinese New Year?
First – a little background for those not already familiar with the celebration. For many people from the West, Chinese New Year can seem like a great carnival and a good excuse to have fun. But there’s much more behind all those lanterns and parades.
Because the festival is linked to lunar cycles, rather than the Western solar (or Gregorian) calendar, there is not set date. It takes place between January 21 to February 20. In 2019, Chinese New Year is on February 5.
It’s celebrated in other parts of Asia so is often called Lunar New Year. It’s also known as chunjie or the Spring Festival, because this festival marks the end of the coldest days. The celebration is about welcoming in Spring and all that it brings: new life and growth, new beginnings, and fresh starts.
Its traditions go back to China’s agrarian roots, when it was a day for praying to the gods for a good growing and harvest season. Today’s festival is still about wealth and good luck. Firecrackers, along with the colour red, are said to scare away monsters and bad luck. Money and new clothes are often given as gifts. Special foods are eaten. It’s a time to spend with family celebrating.
To say “Happy New Year,” the Cantonese phrase is, “xin nian kuai le.” More common, though, is, “gong hei fat choy” (or, in Mandarin, “gong xi fa ca”). This means, “Congratulations on the fortune.”
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Hong Kong puts on its finest red and really goes to town for Chinese New Year.
One of the biggest attractions in Tsim Sha Tsui’s night parade. Colourful, bright floats and elaborate choreographed dancers and performers head along the waterfront. This includes traditional dragon and lion dances. On Chinese New Year Eve, there’s also a spectacular fireworks display above Victoria Harbour. It lasts almost half an hour.
There’s also the Wheel of Fortune at the Peak of Hong Kong Island, where you can receive blessings. Views of Central, Lamma Island and Victoria Harbour are spectacular as the SAR celebrates. Hong Kong Disneyland also has Chinese New Year attractions, making it a great option for families.
During the daytime, visitors can wander through local markets and temples. Flowers are abundant to celebrate Spring, and there’s plenty of delicious local food.
A must-see city for those visiting China, this capital blends tradition and modernity together perfectly for its New Year.
There are a range of Temple Fairs that represent the traditional customs. This includes a re-enactment of an Imperial-age Sacred Ceremony at the Ditan Temple Fair. More than 100 people take part, with the “emperor” worshipping and praying to the gods for prosperity.
There are also parades of local performers, lion and dragon dances, and firecracker displays. Various food vendors, stalls selling hand crafts, and musicians and performers fill the streets.
If you’ve just moved to the city in time for the celebrations, our storage in Bejing can be a great temporary option. Throw yourself into the festivities and save the house-hunting for later!
In the most north-eastern part of China, Harbin will deliver you a winter wonderland.
Its cold winds come straight from Siberia, making it the perfect place to host some the world’s most stunning frozen sculptures. The Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival opens on January 5 every year and lasts for one month. This international festival attracted 18 million visitors in 2017. Sculpture artists from all over the world create impressive feats of art and architecture. There are even full-scale buildings made from blocks of ice cut from the Songhua River.
The festival runs through to February 28 in 2019, coinciding with Chinese New Year. Combine this winter wonder with the traditions of Chinese New Year, and you have the ultimate, wintry Lunar New Year celebration!
This is the perfect destination for expats or those visiting China who want to mix familiarity in with Chinese traditions.
The Yuyunan Old Town Bazar glows soft-orange under red lantern light. Traditional performances weave their way through the Yuyunan Garden. Elaborate decorations fill the streets, firecrackers sound off, and parades move through the city.
Shanghai also provides the perfect opportunity to take part in another tradition – buying new belongings for the new year. New clothes (especially red clothes) and household items are common purchases to celebrate in the new year. The famous shopping street Nanjing Road comes alive with people bustling to get a good deal.
This is the city to head to for truly celebrating the springtime. Famous for its flower fairs, there are three major markets – Xi hu, Tian he, and Li wan – as well as smaller, local ones. They normally begin 3 days before Chinese New Year. Flowers, traditional character decorations, and red lanterns festoon the streets.
A stroll down these freshly scented streets will surely put anyone in a positive mood for the New Year. There’s also an excited mood as the city bursts with street performances, artist’s displays, lion and dragon dances, and firecrackers. You can always offload items in temporary storage in Guangzhou if you get carried away while exploring the local markets.