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3 Tips for Ringing in the Chinese New Year

Lion dances, family feasts, spectacular fireworks and the giving of red envelopes can only mean one thing: Chinese New Year is upon us once again.

by Randy and Bethany Posted on 31 January 2014

Lion dances, family feasts, spectacular fireworks and the giving of red envelopes can only mean one thing: Chinese New Year is upon us once again. One of the most celebrated global holidays, this year the festivities begin on January 31st—China’s New Year’s Eve—and runs until the Lantern Festival on February 15th.

This two-week festival is the grandest of all of China’s festivals and dates back approximately 5,000 years. While celebrations can vary from region to region and differ among ethnic groups, these tips will help you make the most of Chinese New Year no matter where you are in the world.

Best places to celebrate

Obviously, there’s no substitute for actually being in China to ring in the New Year. Beijing, Guangzhou, Xian, Pingyao and Hong Kong are all good bets to experience the traditional holiday at its best. If you don’t have the luxury of spending all 15 days celebrating the New Year, then just focus on New Year’s Eve and the first three days of the New Year. And for anyone who can’t make it to China for the festivities, local Chinatowns are a great alternative. The Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco, for example, is considered the largest of its kind outside of Asia.

Malaysia temple decorated for the Chinese New Year. Photo Credit Yuliang.

Malaysia temple decorated for the Chinese New Year. Photo Credit Yuliang.

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Must-try foods

Food is at the heart of Chinese New Year celebrations, especially on New Year’s Eve when the family reunion dinner (Nian Ye Fan) takes place. During that feast, dishes are more than just something to be devoured. Instead, they’re rooted in tradition with many of the dish names being homophones for words that are specific wishes for the New Year. Dumplings are usually enjoyed at midnight on New Year’s Day, a custom that dates back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and personify wealth in the upcoming year. Long noodles, on the other hand, are all about longevity. Generally served uncut, the long noodle is a popular choice for dishes and also used in stewed broth. Whole roasted chickens and fish are also important dishes for Chinese New Year as well as spring rolls, mustard greens and rice cakes.

What to wear

Red is the color of choice for Chinese New Year. Legend has it that Nian, a mystical beast that terrorized villagers in ancient times on the first day of the New Year, was frightened away by one of two scenarios: a child wearing red or a line of bright red clothing hanging to dry. This led to the belief that red could ward off bad fortune and evil spirits. Beyond that, red is also the color of good luck and symbolizes virtue, truth and sincerity. During Chinese New Year, red can be seen in nearly every facet of the celebrations, from the painted faces on the Chinese opera stage to cakes and decorations.


Getting There

Curious to see just how amazing China is? Want to explore ancient and modern cultures that sit side by side? G Adventures offers a wide array of small group tours to China. So, what are you waiting for?

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