In the red: How Chinese New Year is celebrated across Asia

Lion dance performances are an integral part of Chinese New Year. Pic: cowardlion/Shutterstock

FROM fireworks and lion dances to colorful decor and red packets, Chinese New Year is one of the most important holidays for the Chinese, and not just those from mainland China. 

Originally celebrated in accordance to the Chinese lunar calendar, the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival is a time of family bonding and honoring ancestors and heavenly deities.

This festival is an exciting annual affair, especially in Asia, where towns and cities are literally painted red to usher in prosperity and plenty of good luck.

Hong Kong

The Tea House exterior in Ngong Ping 360 village on Lantau Island is decorated with red Chinese New Year lanterns. Pic: eWilding/Shutterstock

Hong Kong’s citywide Lunar New Year festival tops the list and for very good reason as the city continuously offers you one big parade after another to usher in the new year.

On the eve itself, Chinese New Year literally opens with a bang as fireworks displays fill the sky amidst the huge parade at Tsim Tsa Tsui, where floats and performances draw large crowds of people.

The celebrations continue on the second day with more pyrotechnics at Victoria Harbor – a truly magnificent sight as fireworks are choreographed to complement the Symphony of Lights show.

The horse races at the Sha Tin Racecourse on the third day are a popular event as well. As locals believe that the Lunar New Year will bring lots of good luck, they also believe it increases their chances of winning at the tracks.

Throughout the week, there is also an influx of mainland Chinese (estimated at over 100,000) who come over to Hong Kong for their yearly Spring Festival vacation.

The city’s shopping streets and malls are unusually crowded, but everyone joins in on the variety of seasonal food, decorations and seasonal events.

It’s also the best time of the year to visit temples – one of the most colorfully decorated would be the Wong Tai Sin Temple where red lanterns and a variety of ornaments are decked across the ceilings and walls.


Locals stock up on traditional snacks leading up to Chinese New Year. Pic: Perry Svensson/Shutterstock

In Taiwan, it’s all about being the brightest and boldest during Chinese New Year. In Taipei, a citywide transformation takes over as festive decorations adorn the sidewalks and streets. One of the things that stands out in Taipei is that the locals love flowers.

At this time of the year, Ankang Road, Anxing Street, Baoqing Street and most of the main streets are decked in plum blossoms and water narcissus to symbolise good luck. On the actual day of the Lunar New Year, parties and events steal the spotlight.

One of the hottest attractions is the grand Chinese New Year parade where Chinese acrobats, musicians, martial arts experts, and folk dancers perform together. They start at Anxing Street before moving on to the other parts of the city all night long.

From Beining Road and Binjiang Street to Changde Street, expect a vibrant experience at every corner as music, dance and a very festive mood fills the air.

Fireworks shows are amazing as well, especially the one in Wumiao Temple at Yanshui District and another one at Pingxi District which coincide with the festival of sky lanterns.

Traditional events aside, trendy CNY parties or musical concerts are also a highlight in this city.


The rooster light-up at Chinatown. Pic: KOKTARO/Shutterstock

In Singapore, Chinese New Year celebrations take on a modern spin this year. For starters, its annual Chinese New Year Street Light-Up in Chinatown will feature more than 4,000 handcrafted lanterns designed to reflect the Rooster, 2017’s zodiac animal.

Along with its rooster light-up, the crowded streets of Chinatown this time of the year would be the perfect place to soak up the festive mood.

It’s also the best place to get a variety of traditional festive goodies and delicacies such as barbecued meats, preserved sausages and waxed duck, and there’s a good chance you also may catch a lion dance performance or two.

For grander celebrations, there’s the Chingay Parade, one of Singapore’s top Lunar New Year highlights which takes place at Marina Bay. This year, the parade will offer a multicultural experience with performing acts like samba dancers and modern-day magicians.

At the Esplanade, things get arty as contemporary Chinese arts and culture events come together at the Chinese Festival of Arts or Huayi which runs for 10 days.

Also, don’t miss the annual River Hongbao at Marina Bay’s Floating Platform which offers larger-than-life lanterns depicting figures of Chinese myth and legend.


Chinese New Year cleebrations in Binondo, Manila. Pic: Rainier Martin Ampongan/Shutterstock

Although Chinese New Year is not an official holiday in the Philippines, it is still a popular festival where “Tsinoys” or the Filipino-Chinese get together on this auspicious day to celebrate the Spring Festival the Filipino way.

In Binondo or the Chinatown district of Manila, it’s just as lively as any Chinese city – expect brightly decorated venues and dragon dance performances accompanied by fireworks. There are also concerts featuring popular local artists which pull in quite a crowd every year.

At this time of year, there is a huge selection of Chinese food served at local restaurants. Be sure to get a bite of Tikoy, a traditional glutinous rice which is only available during Chinese New Year.

Come evening, Plaza Ruiz comes alive with more New Year events including parades, dances and more performances. Also, as the Tsinoys are commonly from the Hokkien descent, prepare to festively greet them with a loud and cheerful “Kiong Hee Huat Tsai!”