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The 5 Best Cities for Chinese New Year 2015

Celebrate Chinese New Year at the Beijing Dongyue Temple Fair The Chinese New Year holidays is the best time of the year to experience traditional Chinese culture. People generally have at least three days off, and they use the time to take part in some generations-old traditions.

To help you choose the best places to experience the Chinese New Year, here are five of the biggest celebrations in 2014 in the country: Beijing has temple fairs, Guangzhou has flower fairs, Hong Kong has large extravaganzas, Shanghai has special entertainment, and Harbin has its ice lantern and snow festivals.

Beijing — Temple Fairs

temple of the earth temple fair Cultural performance at Beijing temple fair

As the former capital of the Yuan, Ming and Qing empires, Beijing's temples have hundreds of years of religious traditions and public entertainment. You can expect special entertainment such as martial arts displays or lion and dragon dances, special sales, and festival foods at the festival fairs at Ditan Temple, Longtan Temple and Dongyue Temple. China Highlights' Chinese New Year tour to Beijing includes a visit to a Chinese New Year temple fair. The fireworks, fairs and sports competitions are the Spring Festival highlights, but require special travel plans. See Chinese New Year in Beijing 2014 for more.

Guangzhou — Flower Fairs (January 27–30, 2014)

The big southern city of Guangzhou is sometimes billed the "Flower City" in China for its blooming gardens all the year round. Guangzhou's Spring Festival flower fairs are the highlight of the holidays. The flower fairs usually start three days ahead of the Spring Festival, and they climax on the Eve. There will be various folk performances, and local artists also demonstrate and sell their paintings and calligraphy works in the fairs.

The city was originally a Cantonese city, and they attach a lot of significance to displaying various plants on Chinese New Year. Each plant given as a gift conveys a different wish. Most of the people speak Cantonese, and in their language the kumquat is called "gamgatsue." The word "gam" rhymes with the word for gold, and the word "gat" sounds like the Chinese word for good luck. Therefore, having a kumquat tree at home symbolizes both "abundance of wealth" and good luck. The word in Mandarin ("jinqianju") has a pronunciation similar to many auspicious words. "Jin" is similar to gold, "qian" to money, and "ju" to luck.

Kumquat trees, peach blossoms and peonies are the most sought-after plants at the flower fairs. The peach is a symbol of longevity and is regarded as the strongest defense against evil. The peony is held in high regard by Chinese people. It's "the flower of richness and honor." Among their many colors, the bright red ones are particularly auspicious, bringing good luck and prosperity.

The major flower fairs in Guangzhou are the Xihu Flower Fair, the Donghu Flower Fair, the Liwan Flower Fair, and the Tianhe Flower Fair. More on Guangzhou Flower Fairs

The Lion Dance Performances

Among the traditions celebrated during the Spring Festival in Guangzhou, lion dances are performed to bring good fortune and to ward off evil spirits. The person performing the lion's head initiates the movements, and then the other performers behind him will follow so that the movements are synchronized, smooth and look catlike. The lion's movements, accompanied by firecrackers and loud music, are thought to scare away the evil spirits and to welcome in good fortune. On the first working day after the Spring Festival public holidays, many companies invite teams to perform the lion dance on their grounds hoping that it will bring good fortune and prosperity to the company. More on Lion Dances

Hong Kong — Parade, Fireworks, and Horse Racing (January 31 February 2, 2014)

In Hong Kong, the Spring Festival is the biggest holiday, and people celebrate differently than in the Mainland. People mark the occasion with a unique fusion of modern fun and ancient customs. The three days of Spring Festival events often make it to the top of the lists of world festival events.

Night Parade and Entertainment (January 31, 6:30 to 9:30)

On the evening of Chinese New Year's Day, there is a carnival-like night parade and international Spring Festival entertainment night with performing groups from many countries. After the parade, you can hang out and have fun in the streets afterwards. More on Hong Kong's CNY Parade

Giant Fireworks Display on February 1, 2014

Victoria Harbor is the site of the magnificent fireworks display on the second day of the Spring Fest. More on Hong Kong's CNY Fireworks

Spring Festival Races on February 2, 2014

The most popular races of all...

About 100,000 excited fans will crowd into Sha Tin Racecourse on the third day of the Spring Festival holidays. There is a full program of traditional and colorful festivities, and profits are donated to charities.

More on Chinese New Year in Hong Kong

Shanghai

Known as the Paris of the East, Shanghai celebrates the Spring Festival in many ways that reflect its mixed culture. Various entertainments are held to celebrate this week-long extravaganza. Besides the indoor activities, Shanghai folks, especially the younger generation, join in the New Year countdowns at squares or beside the Huangpu River.

Live Concerts

During the Spring Festival, numerous high-quality live performances of various genres will be on in many theaters, concert halls and arts centers. You can enjoy the wonderful performances presented by world-class masters. From classical chefs-d’oeuvre to Chinese folk music, from Rock & Roll to Jazz, you have so many choices! See our article on Live Music in Shanghai.

Temple Praying and Ringing

If you prefer Chinese style, go visit Shanghai's temples where locals will be praying and ringing bells for good luck in the coming year. Big events take place in major temples like Longhua Temple, City God Temple and Jing'an Temple. People pay big money to ring the bell and burn "the first incense" at the strike of midnight.

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival (January 5 – February 28, 2014)

harbin ice and snow festival Beautiful ice sculptures during Harbin Ice and Snow Festival

Harbin is the most popular winter destination for winter activities among Chinese, expats in China, and foreign tourists. Harbin's bone-chilling winters provide the proper climate for the city’s most prominent claim to fame. The festival lasts more than a month. It is comprised of two big events: an Ice Lantern Festival where ice cities sprout up every winter and a snow sculpture festival. More on Harbin's Ice and Snow Festival

Weather Tips for the Five Cities at Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year takes place in late January or early February. It is usually the coldest time in China. North China is a frozen expanse with average temperatures below 0 °C (32 °F). Take Beijing and Harbin for example. In Beijing, the temperature sometimes plummets to -10 °C (14 °F) during the New Year. It is even colder in Harbin with the lowest temperature below -20 °F (-4 °F). Snowy, icy weather is common.

South China is a warmer than the north, but it isn’t generally warm at all in the real sense. Winter in the Yangtze region (Nanjing, Shanghai and Wuhan) is chilly and windy.

However the southern cities of Hong Kong and Macau are comfortable in winter. The weather in Guangzhou sometimes feels comfortable in winter, and it even gets sunny sometimes, but usually it feels cold.

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