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 2016 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.
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 2016 for more.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
Chinese New Year in Macau is definitely upstaged by its larger neighboring Special Administrative Region, HK, but if you want more of a relaxed Mediterranean feel to your CNY with casinos, then head to Macau.
More on Chinese New Year in Hong Kong>>
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.
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.
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 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
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.
1. Is it possible to travel in China during Chinese New Year?
Travel to China is possible over Chinese New Year as long as you are well-prepared. Be prepared to see big crowds in the streets, restaurants, trains and train stations. Travel bookings, especially for trains, are extremely tight, and hotels generally increase their rates. Read details on Chinese Spring Festival travel (Chunyun)
2. Will everything be closed over Chinese New Year?
Tourist-related enterprises open as usual, even though government buildings and offices are closed during the New Year holiday. Restaurants, tourist attractions, hotels, airports, and departments stores will be open and ready for more customers.
3. What is the weather like during the New Year Festival?
China's New Year Festival takes place in the late January to late February period, which is the coldest time in China. North China is a frozen expanse with the average temperature 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 temperatures below -20°C (-4°F). Snowy and icy weather is common.
South China is warmer than the north, but it isn’t warm at all in the real sense. Winter in the Yangtze region (Nanjing, Shanghai, and Wuhan) is cold, sometimes frozen, and windy. Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are comfortable in winter. Wintering in southern Yunnan province is enjoyable, but a big difference occurs in temperature between day and night.
4. Do I need to bring some small gifts for my guide during the New Year? If so what are the best options?
Gifts from tourists to tour guides are not expected. But your tour guides will appreciate it if you do bring a surprise for them. A pair of warm gloves, a warm scarf, or a box of candies are recommended.
5. In terms of lucky money, how much should I give and how should I give it?
The amount of lucky money varies according to the recipient and the relations between the giver and the recipient. Bosses gifts to employees and parents gifts to children usually range from 100 to 500 yuan or even more. The money is put in a red envelope. Parents usually give the lucky money to their children on the first day of Chinese New Year. Bosses give the lucky money to their employees on the first working day of the New Year.