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 — Temple Fairs
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. The fireworks, fairs and sports competitions are the Spring Festival highlights.
2. 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.
They attach a lot of significance to displaying various plants on Chinese New Year. Each plant given as a gift conveys a different wish. Kumquat trees, peach blossoms and peonies are the most sought-after plants at the flower fairs. Having a kumquat tree at home symbolizes both "abundance of wealth" and good luck. 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.
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.
3. Hong Kong — Parade, Fireworks, and Horse Racing (January 31 – February 2, 2014)
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.
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.
Spring Festival Races on February 2, 2014
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.
Known as the Paris of the East, Shanghai celebrates the Spring Festival in many ways that reflect its mixed culture. 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.
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.
5. Harbin Ice and Snow Festival (January 5 – February 28, 2014)
Harbin is the most popular winter destination for winter activities. The festival lasts more than a month. It is comprised of two big events: an Ice Lantern Festival and a snow sculpture festival.