If you loved this New Year, you don’t have to wait a whole year to do it all again. In fact, on Thurs 3rd Feb, it’s New Year once more, but the Chinese one this time as they enter the Year of the Rabbit.
Also known as the Spring Festival, the Chinese New Year celebrations last two weeks. It’s the traditional time for Chinese families to gather for an annual reunion dinner. There’s much cleaning out of the house, present giving, wearing red clothing and setting off of firecrackers. Not to mention plate loads of dumplings and the lighting of brightly-coloured paper lanterns as a climax.
A great destination to join in the festivities is Chinatown in San Francisco. Their parade, which has its roots in the days of the Gold Rush, is the oldest and largest in the world. It’s spectacular stuff with floats, elaborate costumes, ferocious ‘lions’ and plenty of exploding bangers. Check out the 250 ft long Golden Dragon that takes 100 men from local martial arts schools to carry it.
The weekend before New Year’s Day, the Flower Fair is also worth a visit. Buy yourself some oranges and tangerines, symbols of abundant happiness; and sweets like candied melon which symbolizes growth and good health. There’s plenty of traditional entertainment too: lion dancing, Chinese opera and martial arts demos.
If you’d prefer to head east to celebrate, flying to Singapore is another destination to consider. They have two days of public holidays with festivities centred on their Chinatown. There’s a festive street bazaar, nightly shows at Kreta Ayer Square and the annual Lion Dance competition.
For over a century, their Chingay Parade is something unique, a blend of many cultures, mixing local and international performers. Pretty impressive are the flag-wavers who have to balance and manipulate a giant flag up to 30ft high and weighing nearly the same in kilograms. 40 metre high dragons are just as spectacular.
Not far from Singapore, Hong Kong also pushes the boat, or should that be junk, out for Chinese New Year. This densely populated shrine to commerce and shopping has light displays and New Year’s messages written on their high-rises and some awesome fireworks.
Join the throng at street level as a parade of floats, dancers and dragons go by in a blaze of colour and a wall of noise. On the 3rd of February, the Cathay Pacific International New Year Night Parade is worth booking for. The next evening is the fireworks display, best watched from the east Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. Away from at least some of the maddening crowds, buy your new year’s flowers in Victoria Park.
What about Chinese New Year in China? Well, it’s the most authentic destination all right, but not hugely tourist-friendly. The focus on family means most people head home to be with their nearest and dearest. There’s massive pressure on the planes, trains etc Of course, without those crowds, it’ll be a little less busy at all the traditional tourist spots such as the Forbidden City, Great Wall and Summer Palace. Happy New Year!
Let us know where and how you’ve celebrated Chinese New Year. What were the highlights for you? Any tips of how to do it on a budget?