The top 5 Chinese New Year celebrations around the world
These destinations are renowned for going all out for Chinese New Year. If you’re planning to celebrate in style, this is where you want to be.
Whether you call it Chinese New Year, Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, Chinese New Year is THE biggest day on the Asian calendar. To put it into context, it’s much of the continent’s version of Christmas with stores closing shop for at least a week to make way for family reunions and celebrations.
Street parties, lion dances and decadent banquets will be held in the lead-up to and during Chinese New Year. The actual date changes each year as it’s based on the lunar calendar, falling on the evening of the first new moon between 21 January and 20 February.
This year, it’s on 8 February 2016.
For anyone travelling to see the celebrations, we suggest you get there early and stay at least two weeks. This is because celebrations begin the evening before Chinese New Year and continue through to the Lantern Festival, which is 15 days later (22 February 2016).
Before you start planning your trip, be aware that not all Asian countries celebrate Chinese New Year, however many that don’t celebrate it will have their own version tends to fall on the same day. For example: Vietnamese New Year (Tét), Japanese New Year and Korean New Year (Seollal), Mongolian New Year (Tsagaan Sar) and Tibetan New Year (Losar) all follow the lunar calendar.
Destinations that do celebrate Chinese New Year include China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius and the Philippines.
As for parties? These are the best ones:
Where to be on Chinese New Year
For the hub of Chinese New Year celebrations, go to the source. Beijing and Shanghai are said to host the best Chinese New Year celebrations with carnivals, firecrackers and parades pulling anyone and everyone into the streets to cut loose and celebrate. As tradition is at the forefront of celebrations in China, many people will take time off work in the lead-up to clean and prepare their homes for a prosperous and healthy new year. During the new year, they will visit family and temples.
In Beijing, the reenactment of the Qing-Style Sacred Ceremony at the Ditan Temple Fair is an eye-opening insight into the country’s history. Although it’s one of many temple fairs held through the year, it’s intensified for the Chinese New Year celebrations.
For something more interactive, head to one of the larger parks to witness or partake in athletic displays. If you have time, a new addition to the events is the Longqing Ice and Snow Festival. Conveniently placed around Chinese New Year, between 15 January and 29 February, ice sculptures are carved at Longqing Gorge, which sits just outside of Beijing, and are illuminated at night in a gorgeous display of colour.
2. Hong Kong
Blending old traditions and customs with modern practices, Hong Kong’s Chinese New Year is like no other. It runs for three days and sees the city come alive with markets, fireworks, food stalls, florals and red glowing lanterns. They all set the scene for one of the biggest events of the day: the parade.
Located in Tsim Sha Tsui, the night parade kicks off with jugglers, dancers, bands and elaborately decorated floats that drip even more colour into this brightly lit city. Mark your spot along the harbour the following day for the annual fireworks display over Victoria Harbour. If you’re still standing the following day, head over to the races at Sha Tin Racecourse to try your luck alongside 100,000 other punters.
To try your luck somewhere else, you can make the trek to the Peak of Hong Kong Island to receive blessings from its Wheel of Fortune. Or, if fun and games are more your style, take a trip to Disneyland Hong Kong where you’ll find Mickey and his gang dressing up in Chinese attire and celebrating the Lunar New Year.
The anticipation for Chinese New Year in Singapore is stifling. An annual countdown in the city’s Chinatown begins three weeks prior with an official opening ceremony that includes fireworks and performances. Arrive a week before Chinese New Year and you’ll witness the street’s pre-war shophouses, temples and clan houses lit up in a spectacle of old meets new. They’ll remain lit for 19 continuous days.
Chinese New Year brings with it an annual International Lion Dance Competition, Chinatown Wishing tree and nightly performances, making Singapore a melting pot of cultural celebration during this time.
The Chingay Parade is the highlight. Known as the largest street and float parade in Asia, it’s a maze of colour and movement. Dancing dragons, stilt walkers and lion dancers take over the streets, and magicians and acrobats litter its backdrop as street entertainment.
Although the three-day-long celebrations in Bangkok are short, they most definitely are sweet.
The party opens with the Thai Princess, who partakes in the celebrations throughout the New Year. Bangkok’s Chinatown becomes a display of bright red and gold as floats, dancers and drummers parade down its streets. As the night wears on, the parade’s long dragon is lit up in LED lights to guide the way.
Lanterns glow throughout the streets and the night is further lit up with the crack and sparkle of firecrackers.
5. San Francisco
Proving that you should never underestimate the party power outside of Asia, San Francisco hosts a Chinese New Year celebration worthy of the trip. Boasting one of the oldest Chinese New Year celebrations outside Asia, its parade draws in over a million onlookers annually and consists of over 5,000 performers.
During the parade, dancers, drummers, stilt walkers, floats and firecrackers storm the streets of Chinatown in the lead-up to the anticipated grand finale: an 80m long golden dragon that majestically snakes through the roads with the help of 100 men and women and is accompanied by 600,000 firecrackers.
Beyond the parade, the city also hosts a Miss Chinatown USA Pageant and Coronation ceremony and the San Francisco Symphony Chinese New Year celebration as well as smaller events like red envelope crafts and community street fairs.
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