Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival or Lunar New Year is an important traditional Chinese holiday. It marks the first day of the first month in the traditional Chinese calendar. Unlike the New Year observed by those that follow the Gregorian calendar, which is based on a solar calendar, the Chinese New Year is based on a traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar. Typically, the Chinese New Year is a 16-day celebration, beginning on the first day of the Chinese traditional calendar and leading up to the first full moon of the year. This year, the Chinese New Year begins on 12th Feb.
While it is celebrated all over the world, no country celebrates it quite the same way. Cities with significant Chinese population tend to celebrate in style, each unique in their own way. So, we bring you the best Chinese New Year Celebrations in Asia to help you ring this loud celebration with some of the best parades and firework displays:
Shanghai is the perfect destination for visitors and ex-pats to capture the mix familiarity in with Chinese traditions. Locals and tourists alike watch as the Yuyuan Old Town Bazar glows soft-orange under the gorgeous lantern displays while traditional performances weave their way through the Yuyuan Garden. You can also ring the bells, burn joss sticks at the City God Temple which dates to the year 1403 or Longhua Temple, which was first built in 242 AD, and go on a shopping spree at the famous shopping street Nanjing Road (one of the world’s busiest shopping streets ) to get lap up the Chinese New Year deals. Usually, new clothes, especially red clothes and household items are common purchases to celebrate in the New Year.
Singapore’s population comprises primarily of Chinese, Indian, and Malaysian ethnic groups; and therefore the Chinese New Year celebrations is a fascinating mix of old and new traditions as well as the influence that comes from many different cultures. Ever since 1987, the lively festival of Chinese New Year in Singapore has brought residents and visitors together at the River Hongbao. The bulk of the festivities occurs along the glowing streets of pre-war shophouses, temples, clan houses with a phenomenal outdoor food market. Don’t miss out on the lights and lanterns in red and gold are strewn across the Victorian and Baroque architecture, traditional song and dance performances and exotic delicacies with some spectacular firework displays. These traditional songs and dance performances include International Lion Dance Competition, street bazaars, acrobatic carnival shows, and nightly parties and shows. It’s truly a Carnival!
As the Chinese New Year approaches, you’d see how Hong Kong is painted RED! The celebrations kick-start with the world-famous Tsim Sha Tsui’s night parade which contains colourful, bright floats, elaborately choreographed dance performances along the harbour front sending down a rain of confetti and elaborate decorations. The parade is one of the biggest attractions in Hong Kong which also includes traditional dragon and lion dances along with amazing fireworks which lasts for almost half an hour. For the visitors hoping to gain some good fortune, there’s also the Wheel of Fortune at the Peak of Hong Kong Island, where you can receive blessings as well as catch spectacular panoramic views of Central, Victoria Harbour, Lamma Island and more.
Penang and Kuala Lumpur
Another multiracial country, Malaysia’s demographic composition contains Malays, Chinese, Indians, and other indigenous Bumiputra groups. And of course, this is the reason why there are different ways how even New Year is celebrated in Malaysia. While Malaysia’s vibrant capital Kuala Lumpur hosts Chinese New Year celebrations in temples, such as Thean Hou (one of the oldest and largest temples in Southeast Asia), the George Town Heritage District (a renowned UNESCO World Heritage City) on the island of Penang is far better known for its festivities.
In Kuala Lumpur, the celebrations are considered a bit reserved. The people crowd the temples to pay respects to the gods, light joss sticks, burn paper cuts for their ancestors and admire the decorations. Malls are illuminated with flashy décor and they host small celebrations while during the evening, people stream through the streets to enjoy the open-air markets and the fireworks. Penang, due to its significant Chinese population holds one of the most bustling CNY celebrations in Malaysia. The celebrations here have a communal and homely vibe; every year, the Penang Chinese Clan Council brings the streets of George Town to life with coloured lights and lanterns along with parades, dragon dances and fireworks at the town’s squares.
Tết Nguyên Đán Holiday in Vietnam or just Tết is Vietnamese equivalent to Chinese New Year and is the most wonderful time to be in this exotic South East Asian Country. Enjoy the festive atmosphere and explore one of the oldest holidays in the world here in the cities of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh and Hoi An. These cities throw the best Tết festivities with free cultural shows, music, and entertainment.
Hanoi looks at its Tết best from the second to the seventh day of Chinese New Year, with celebrations that recall significant events in Vietnamese history. Ho Chi Minh City starts off its Tết festivities with fireworks at the stroke of midnight, setting off at six areas across the city. The New Year festival mostly concentrates on Cholon (the city’s Chinatown); where street markets and Vietnamese food stalls see plenty of takers. As the quaint city of Hoi An is known for its Chinese influences, the New Year celebration here is one photogenic spectacle. The streets are lined with blossoming trees and colourful lanterns, as well as pagodas and temples where you may see Tet rituals. During the night, the lantern festival on Hoai River is an enchanting sight to see; you’ll see floating candles bearing the hopefuls’ wishes to their ancestors.
Known to have a mother of all Chinese New Year celebrations, the capital city of China- Beijing blends tradition and modernity together perfectly for its New Year. It hosts a long string of carnivals, festivals, worship ceremonies and parties in town squares, parks and temples. The families spend the end of the year cleaning and decorating their houses for the celebration, and use the first two days of the festival to visit with family. Families spend a good amount of time in prayers and honouring the ancestors, and later partake in a range of temple fairs around the city that represent the traditional customs of Beijing. This includes the Re-enactment of the Qing-Style Sacred Ceremony at the Ditan Temple Fair. At these fairs, people admire the Chinese folk art, lion dancers, folk performances, drum shows, parades and enjoy a vast array of authentic foods. For a change of pace, try the Yanguing Ice Festival for its illuminated ice sculptures during the lantern festival. On the eve of the New Year, this cultural immersive visit to Beijing will come to an end with fireworks lighting up the city sky.
Bangkok is home to Thailand’s largest Chinatown and therefore takes happy responsibility for hosting Thailand’s biggest celebration of the Chinese New Year. While normally the festival is celebrated for three days, most excitement occurs on the actual New Year day; and the members of the Chinese community take a day off to celebrate. During the day, the Chinese visit the temples to pray to the gods and pay their respect to the elders; while the parades start to fill the streets around noon.
The vendor-lined streets of Chinatown are decorated with the red lanterns and the stage is set (near the Chinatown Gate) for a vibrant parade with plenty of dancers, floats, lanterns and drummers. Chinese New Year is celebrated with great pomp and show with the Thai-Chinese communities, as the parades and cultural performances highlight the legacy of Chinese culture in Thailand. Opening the festivities is usually done by the Thai Princess and she can be seen throughout the celebrations partaking in the fun. During the night the city is lit with a beautiful shade of red as the parade charges ahead with its long dragon that is lit up with LED lights, acrobats spinning high in the air and musicians playing all night.
Have you ever visited any of these destinations during the Chinese New Year? If yes, let us know about your experiences in the comments below! If no, now is a good time as any for some red lanterns, elaborate parades, exorbitant red displays and the infamous Golden Dragon, am I right?