7 Ways to Celebrate Chinese New Year

From temple fairs in Beijing to fireworks in Hong Kong, here’s how cities throughout China plan to welcome the Year of the Horse.

Jan 15, 2014
  • Lion dancers performing for Chinese New Year—Beijing, China
  • Lantern Festival parade during Chinese New Year—Shanghai, China
  • Chinese New Year: View of West Lake—Hangzhou, China
  • Chinese New Year: Fireworks display over Victoria Harbour—Hong Kong, China
  • Chinese New Year: Shrimp dumpings—Guangzhou, China
  • Chinese New Year and Chinese culture: A-Ma Temple—Macau, China
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Colourful lion dancers perform at one of Bejing’s popular temple fairs.
Photography courtesy slowbuddy.com
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Shanghai’s best-known Chinese New Year celebration is the Lantern Festival parade at Yuyuan Garden.
Photography LingZhi Suzuki
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In Hangzhou, locals and visitors celebrate the start of a new year at the ancient temples that surround West Lake.
Photography Anne Roberts
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Every year, thousands of spectators venture to Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour for an awe-inspiring fireworks show.
Photography Countries in Colors
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Traditional Chinese New Year foods, such as dumplings symbolizing wealth and prosperity, are served along Guangzhou's Shang Xia Jiu Pedestrian Street.
Photography Matt @ PEK
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In Macau, spiritual celebrations take place at the A-Ma Temple, where visitors burn incense for good fortune in the new year.
Photography Vickisee Photography

Each year, on the first day of the first lunar month, people throughout China and around the world begin a two-week celebration that includes family gatherings, feasts and firework displays. Chinese New Year—also known as Spring Festival or Chunjie—corresponds to the Chinese zodiac, which is based on a 12-year cycle with each year represented by an animal. The Year of the Horse begins on January 31, and in China festivals and events are planned until February 14. During this time, red lanterns hang in the streets, visitors throng the temples and shouts of xin nian kuai le (happy new year) fill the air.

Shops, restaurants and businesses take a break during Chinese New Year, but it’s still a great time to visit. Here’s how you can celebrate in destinations around the country.

Explore temple fairs in Beijing.

The city’s colourful temple fairs date back to the Tang Dynasty. Join crowds at Ditan Park or Yuanmingyuan for folk performances, lion dances, local snacks and street vendors. Don’t expect to get much sleep with the round-the-clock fireworks, so go with the flow and visit the Drum and Bell Towers in the hutongs of the Dongcheng District for late-night firecracker displays.

Find good fortune in Shanghai.

Follow the locals in this commercial hub and pray for prosperity at the Jade Buddha temple, lighting incense sticks to ensure good fortune comes your way. The city’s Ming dynasty Yuyuan Garden and nearby Yuyuan Old Town buzz with festive atmosphere, so head there for the Lantern Festival parade with its show-stopping animal-shaped lanterns (horses will naturally dominate this year’s procession).

Celebrate Buddhist traditions in Hangzhou.

Culture-rich Hangzhou and scenic West Lake have long inspired poets and artists. But for Chinese New Year visitors flock to give thanks at Lingyin Temple, one of the best-known Buddhist temples in the country. Hangzhou’s Jinci temple is another favourite site; to mark the arrival of the new year, visitors ring the temple’s 10-ton bell 108 times, a significant number in Buddhism.

Watch colourful fireworks in Hong Kong.

It may be a modern metropolis, but Hong Kong loves tradition. Shop for orange trees, lucky bamboo and pussy willow in Causeway Bay’s Victoria Park flower market. Marvel at the brightly coloured floats and lion dancers at the International Chinese New Year Night Parade along Tsim Sha Tsui’s harbour front. The fireworks display over Victoria Harbour the day after Chinese New Year is stunning; get there early to secure a spot.

Feast on festive cuisine in Guangzhou.

If you want to celebrate the culinary traditions of Chinese New Year, there’s no better destination to visit than the southern city of Guangzhou. Head to Shang Xia Jiu Pedestrian Street for tasty dumplings, boiled chicken, rice cakes and stir-fried pancakes.

Honour spiritual beliefs in Macau.

Celebrate with the locals at the lively 16th-century A-Ma Temple, where gods and deities are honoured with dragon dances, drumming and fortune-tellers.

Go dancing in Shenzhen.

The pace of life slows in this southern city located in China’s Guangdong Province, as many residents head home for the holidays. Parties continue in downtown Lianhua Park with fireworks, flowers, food and dancing.

More Chinese New Year traditions

  • On New Year’s Eve, all of China prepares for the celebrations, as planes, trains and buses fill with people heading home for a customary family reunion dinner. Traditional dishes such as  (fish), jiaozi (dumplings) and noodles are served as symbols of prosperity, wealth and long life, respectively. At midnight, fireworks illuminate the sky, and firecrackers—the louder the better—are set off to chase away Nian, a legendary monster who attacked villages every spring.
  • On New Year’s Day, people dress in red (an auspicious colour), visit relatives and give hong bao (red envelopes containing money for good luck). No one cleans, lest they sweep good fortune out of the door. Celebrations end with the Yuanxiao Jie, or Lantern Festival, a full-moon festival with paper lanterns, games and tasty tangyuan (sticky rice balls).

Experience the flavours of Chinese New Year with these traditional recipes on Taste.


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