Chinese New Year celebrations across Asia

Chinese New Year celebrations across Asia
PHOTO: Pixabay

Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year is one of the most important cultural holidays in Asia.

All around the region and even the world, Chinese communities start the multi-day festival with well-preserved traditions like a sumptuous reunion dinner on the eve of the New Year.

Looking for a lively experience and exciting getaway over the Chinese New Year holidays?

Skyscanner recommends going away for a holiday or a short trip, and putting a different cultural spin on festivities!

1. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Tết - or Tết Nguyên Đán - represents the first morning of the Lunar New Year.

Undisputedly one of the most important holidays in Vietnam, it celebrates the togetherness of family, and heralds the beginning of Spring and a fresh start.

While the streets of Vietnam come alive in the month of the New Year with flowers and lanterns, the whole city quietens down about three days prior to Tet, as city dwellers return to their hometowns to reunite with families.

So if you like somewhere peaceful, away from the crowds - you know just the place!

2. Penang, Malaysia

Penang is a melting pot of culture and heritage, with a plethora of activities organised by the various clan associations.

Head straight for George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where the annual Chinese New Year Cultural and Heritage Celebration is held.

Along the streets, soak up the annual festival highlights like lion dances, wushu performances, folk music and Chinese performing arts.

Be warned when it comes to food though.

As Chinese New Year is one of the rare times where Penang's Chinese hawkers take a break, it's a great time to feast on other cuisines like the famous Original Penang Nasi Kandar Restaurant, a Malaysian-Indian eatery.

Address: 15, Lebuh Nipah, 11900 Bayan Lepas, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

How to get to Original Penang Nasi Kandar Restaurant: 20-minute drive by taxi from Penang International Airport

Website: Original Penang Nasi Kandar Restaurant

3. Hong Kong, China

One of the best organised Chinese New Year celebrations in the world can be found in Hong Kong with a variety of events held throughout the territory.

The International Chinese New Year Street Parade takes place on the first day of Lunar New Year starting by the Avenue of Stars, winding its way through the streets of Kowloon with a procession of dozens of colourful floats with music, dance and jugglers.

Have a snack and enjoy a bit of shopping at Temple Street market before the carnival begins.

The next day sees a huge and spectacular fireworks display over Victoria Harbour with pyrotechnics scheduled to coincide with the carnival of lights, ensuring a visual and aural feast kicking off at 8pm.

Head to the waterfront at Tsim Sha Tsui for the best views.

Celebrations reach a climax with the annual Chinese New Year Horse Races at Sha Tin on the third day with over 100,000 punters eager to try out their luck on the horses and plenty of lion dances, cultural performances and music to keep the crowds entertained.

Don't forget to check out Hong Kong's booming flower markets over the festive period; Hong Kongers take their flowers seriously at this time of year with different types conveying symbolic meaning.

You'll find gorgeous bouquets at the Chinese New Year Flower Market in Victoria near Causeway Bay MTR.

A Hong Kong New Year mirrors the city in many ways as a celebration of dynamism and energy, and you'll have plenty of things to do during the festive season.

Address: Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza, 10 Salisbury Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong

How to get to The International Chinese New Year Street Parade: Tsim Sha Tsui Station

Website: The International Chinese New Year Street Parade

Address: Victoria Park Swimming Pool, 1 Hing Fat St, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

How to get to Chinese New Year Flower Market: Causeway Bay MTR Station

4. Manila, The Philippines

Head to the world's oldest Chinatown in Binondo for a taste of Chinese New Year in the Philippines and as the majority of Filipino-Chinese are of Hokkien descent, get your mouth round "Kiong Hee Huat Tsai!" for your festive greetings.

During Chinese New Year, the streets are filled with a veritable babel of tongues with Mandarin, Hokkien, Tagalog and Korean bouncing around the crowds, though languages are difficult to discern under the constant din of firecrackers.

Spiritually and superstitiously inclined folks dash into the area's many churches and temples to usher in good luck and prosperity for the coming year.

Dragon dancing troupes weave through the crowds, and lion dancers and their percussionists keep the atmosphere vibrant whilst looking for the red ang pao hung outside shops and homes for the dancers to collect.

Things to eat during this season includes the tikoy, a traditional glutinous rice snack usually eaten at Lunar New Year and guaranteed to pull in hungry crowds.

In the late afternoon, head down to Plaza Ruiz for performances, dance and plenty of Lunar New Year positivity.

Address: Quintin Paredes Rd, Binondo, Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines

How to get to Plaza Ruiz: By taxi

5. Tokyo, Japan

Since 1873, the official Japanese New Year has been celebrated on January 1st, and that is when most traditional New Year activity occurs.

However, Japan is a tourist hotspot for mainland Chinese visitors over the Lunar New Year period and festive vibes can be felt in full force in the city's shopping districts.

Takashimaya in Shinjuku does a roaring trade in fukubukuro lucky bags for Chinese visitors.

With a growing Chinese presence in Tokyo, a Chinatown is beginning to slowly take shape in the district of Ikebukuro, with over 200 Chinese-owned businesses and more than 60 restaurants; this is the place to grab an authentic bite to eat over the New Year and pick up some bargains.

This isn't your standard Chinatown as found in London or New York, but an authentic and growing contemporary Chinese enclave.

For a more atmospheric Chinese New Year experience, hop on the train for the hour-long trip to Yokohama, home to a long established Chinatown with a series of events including lion dances, acrobatic performances and a celebration parade.

A lantern festival is held at the Ma Zhu Miao temple in the heart of Chinatown, with the goddess believed to offer all travellers protection and longevity; perfect wishes for any New Year traveller.

Address: Yamashitacho, Naka Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture 231-0023, Japan

How to get to Yokohama Chinatown: Motomachi-Chukagai Station

6. Shanghai, China

Chinese New Year in Shanghai takes some planning.

This is the time when all the non-native workers leave the city to return home and, consequently, every available form of transport to and from this behemoth of a city is packed.

The best advice is to arrive 3 or more days before the festive season begins and enjoy the growing sense of anticipation.

The outpouring of people also means that the streets of Shanghai are strangely quiet, making it perfect to explore on two wheels and guaranteeing a bit of breathing space on the underground.

When the New Year kicks in at the stroke of midnight you'll be deafened by an intense barrage of fire crackers for at least an hour, where the best place to be is at Longhua Temple at 853 Longhua Road.

108 monks are asked into the temple to strike the celebrated temple bell, symbolically driving away evil spirits and literally ringing in the New Year.

Yu Yuan is also a place to visit with its famous lantern festival being held at 269 Fangbang Road with lanterns, snacks aplenty and live music and cultural performances.

Also be sure to eat some Xunyu at this time of year; a dish of fish fried in soya sauce and sugar, chopped up and served cold.

Address: 2853 Longhua Rd, Xuhui Qu, Shanghai Shi, China

How to get to Longhua Temple: By bus to Longhua Station

Address: 218 Anren St, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200010

How to get to Yu Yuan: By metro to Yuyuan Garden Station

For party animals, the number one choice for nightlife in Shanghai has to be the Bund with its gargantuan fireworks display over the skyscrapers of Pudong and its selection of top clubs to party the night away.

Popular clubbing options in that part of town include Vue, Bar and Mr and Mrs Bund.

Our top tip for Shanghai is to pack a pair of ear plugs as Chinese New Year doesn't get louder than here.

Address: Zhongshan East 1st Rd, WaiTan, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200002

How to get to the Bund: By metro to Nanjing Road(E.) Station

7. Seoul, South Korea

Seollal is the Korean celebration of the Lunar New Year and occupies an important part of the calendar for Koreans with many returning home to their families and paying their respects to their ancestors.

Many shops and department stores close for the two-day celebrations.

However, that shouldn't deter visitors from visiting during the New Year as there are plenty of events to enjoy.

Head to Namsangol Hanok Village to enjoy a whole host of activities including Seollal food tastings (such as the sweet ganjeong, and glutinous rice cake tteok), writing New Year wishes, fortune telling, bow and arrow making and countless performances.

All the palaces in Seoul stay open over the festive period and are wonderfully quiet giving you a chance to immerse yourself in the grand atmosphere and get pleasantly lost without being poked by too many selfie sticks.

Amusement parks are also open and often have special winter themed activities such as sledding on snow, so head to Lotte World or Seoul Land and have the parks to yourself!

Note that Seollal is the time at which you add another year to your age in Korean custom, so celebrate a birthday too!

If it's your lunar year birthday, bring some ID and score some decent discounts at restaurants throughout the city.

Address: 28 Toegye-ro 34-gil, Pil-dong, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea

How to get to Namsangol Hanok Village: By subway to Chungmuro Station

Website: Namsangol Hanok Village

8. Bangkok, Thailand

Lunar New Year is a special occasion celebrated countrywide by the nation's sizable Chinese community.

For a thick slice of the festivities, head straight for the capital city of Bangkok!

Join in the thick of the action at Yaowarat, Bangkok's Chinatown, where the streets come alive with much pomp and splendour - from colourful dragon dance parades and firecrackers, to worshippers making their way to Lengnoeiyi Temple, to markets lined with bustling food stalls - it's easy to see why Chinese New Year is one of the biggest celebrations in Bangkok!

Address: Yaowarat Rd, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, Thailand

How to get to Yaowarat: By boat to Ratchawong Pier

Website: Yaowarat Chinatown

This article first appeared on Skyscanner’s Chinese New Year Celebrations across Asia.

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