Top Five Cities to Bring in the Chinese New Year

Pimsleur Approach • February 8, 2013 • ChineseComments (0)

At this time of year, at the beginning of January, most of us are still recovering from our New Year festivities. But in China, it’s another story, with the big turn-of-the-year celebrations still to come.

Chinese New Year is the most important festival in the calendar, with preparations started early and taken seriously. The event, which is also known as Spring Festival, follows the lunar calendar and the track of the new moon, meaning the 15-day celebration can start at any time from late January to the middle of February. (In 2013, the Year of the Snake, it falls on February 10.) Chinese New Year is a vibrant and colorful time in China, with fireworks and feasting the main focus. Everywhere you go there are celebrations to enjoy.

However, Asia isn’t the only part of the world that will be holding a mass party on February 10. Here are five great global locations to bring in the Chinese New Year, hopefully including a city near you…

Chinatown in San Francisco
Chinatown in San Francisco (Image via Wikipedia)

San Francisco

With one of the largest Chinese populations in America, San Francisco places huge importance on its New Year celebrations. Snaking dragons, colorful fireworks and Chinese acrobats light up the streets as this two-week-long festival gets underway in significant style. The city’s parade is considered one of the finest in the world, with elaborate floats and marching bands taking over the city. The highlight is the 268-foot-long Golden Dragon, carried by a hundred people. The main event starts at the market and winds through streets until it reaches the  Community Fair.

Symphony of Lights in Hong Kong
Symphony of Lights in Hong Kong (Image via Wikipedia)

Hong Kong

Venturing a little closer to the roots of the celebration, the lively metropolis of Hong Kong brings in the Chinese New Year with a bang. Several thousand bangs, as it happens, as fireworks burst over the harbor, brightening the water and combining with the famous Symphony of Lights, an elaborate light-and-sound show that illuminates both sides of the bay. The main parade here is held at night, with a stream of floats and performers snaking through the Tsim Sha Tsui district and ending at the harbor-side Sheraton Hotel. Follow the crowds to the flower market to choose your lucky blooms, and don’t forget to pick up your red envelopes and present a loved one with money for the coming year.

Chinatown in London
Chinatown in London (Image via Wikipedia)

London

Chinese New Year celebrations go hand-in-hand with thronging crowds, and nowhere outside of the home country will you find the streets more tightly packed than in England’s capital. The West End becomes the focal point for revelers of all nationalities; after the parade reaches its streets from Trafalgar Square, the party begins in earnest. Fashion shows, live bands and street theatre are held throughout the celebration, while stunning craft fairs pop up around the streets. And in Chinatown—the focal point of the festivities—there are lion dances and gymnastic displays throughout the day, which can be enjoyed while tucking into the traditional Chinese cuisine sold by local street vendors.

New Year's Parade in Paris
New Year’s Parade in Paris (Image via Wikipedia)

Paris

The French need very little reason to start a party, so the Chinese New Year is always a good excuse for locals to don elaborate outfits and let their hair down. The French-Chinese population flood the streets in the south of Paris at the start of the party, with restaurants throwing open their doors to release exotic aromas into the crowded avenues. Tourists are invited to gatecrash the gaiety, which involves music, film showings and vibrant processions on a grand scale. What sets Paris apart from the crowd is the intricate decorations, from traditional red lanterns to brightly-colored animals linking to the Chinese Zodiac. It’s loud, vivid and utterly unforgettable—an annual highlight.

A festive front door in Beijing
A festive front door in Beijing (Image via Wikipedia)

Beijing

Sometimes original is simply the best. For a truly authentic experience, see in your Chinese New Year with extraordinary celebrations in the city of Beijing. The festivities begin in style, with parades and fairs to interest tourists, but it’s not just the illuminating lights and street music that makes this a special destination. Rather, it’s that here in Beijing you can experience what China’s most famous festival is really all about: family, friendship, and a fresh start. Stroll through the streets just before New Year’s Eve and you’ll catch sight of families literally sweeping the past year out of their homes, throwing out the old and making space for the new. The superstitious believe that cleaning on New Year’s Day will push the good luck away, so by then they’ll be visiting friends and sharing good luck, before leaving to watch one of the impressive—and all too rare—firework displays light up the city.

The Chinese New Year is as big around the world as the traditional Gregorian New Year is for the rest of us; wherever you are there’s likely to be a vibrant and lively festival within reach. So when the time comes, dig out your best red clothes for good luck, indulge in your favorite sweets to make your luck sweeter still, and have a very Happy New Year. Congratulations and be prosperous. Or, as they say in Cantonese: Sun Nien Fai Lok. Gung Hay Fat Choy.

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