Chinese New Year is an important traditional Chinese holiday; also known as the Spring Festival and is celebrated all over the world. The most unique attribute of this holiday is that no country celebrates it quite the same way. Cities with significant Chinese populations tend to celebrate the biggest and visitors from all over the world come to celebrate along with them. From places that offer over three weeks of celebrations to cities with extreme computer controlled fireworks displays; Chinese New Year should be celebrated in style. Elaborate parades line the streets offering a glimpse into the world of performers, musicians, marching bands and the infamous Golden Dragon. Some of the best places to celebrate the Chinese New Year are actually located outside China and you may be surprised at our top twelve list of the best places to ring in the New Year. Break out the red lanterns, delicious food and head to one of the best cities to ring in the Chinese New Year.
The nation of Singapore is comprised primarily of Chinese, Indian, and Malaysian ethnic groups and when the Chinese New Year rolls around the entire country joins in the celebrations. The most fascinating part of the Chinese New Year in Singapore is the mixing of old and new traditions as well as the influence that comes from many different cultures. Since 1987 residents and visitors have been gathering at the River Hongbao for the liveliest of festivals. From giant lanterns to traditional song and dance to spreads of exotic delicacies to spectacular firework displays, this event celebrates everything Chinese.
Another major event in Singapore held to ring in the Chinese New Year is the Chingay Parade; a street and float parade held downtown. It remains the largest street and float parade in Asia and dancing dragons, stilt walkers and traditional lion walkers are just a small part of it. Magic shows, acrobats and samba parties fill the streets with animated joy and people gather from all over the world to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity. Head to Chinatown when you are not busy taking in parades and festivals to experience authentic cuisine and pay respect in one of the many temples.
11. Sydney, Australia
What started as a small community event to celebrate the Chinese New Year has now turned into one of the biggest celebrations of the Lunar Year in the world and is considered one of the biggest celebrated events in Australia. The celebrations primarily happen in Chinatown where performers, markets and street stalls all set up. The dragon boat races are a huge part of this city’s celebrations; they happen on Cockle Bay and visitors are invited to get up close and personal with these intricately carved boats that are an important part of the Chinese history.
The twilight parade is the signature event in Sydney with its sensational display of lights and color. Observers will watch as colorful floats, huge floating lanterns, projections and community performers make their way down the streets. Numerous events throughout the city include karaoke competitions, martial art demonstrations, dancing dragons and lions and many other cultural activities that take place during this month-long celebration. Sydney has truly embraced this celebration and made it its own and is one of our favorite places to ring in the Chinese New Year.
10. New York City
New York tends to celebrate everything in grand style so it is no surprise that this is one of the best cities to celebrate the Chinese New Year. For those wanting big flashy parades, extreme entertainment and great food New York is the place to be. For the more traditional approach the Museum of Chinese in America offers many events including walking tours of Chinatown and a family festival. Other events include the popular Chinese New Year Concert put on by the New York Philharmonic featuring amazing composers and musicians.
New York offers not one parade, not two but three separate parades and several days full of celebrations. The Firecracker Ceremony kicks off the start of the New Year in Manhattan where dancing lions and dragons, drummers and dance troupes take to the streets of Chinatown in the annual ceremony and parade. The Lunar New Year Parade takes place in Flushing, Queens; home to the largest Chinese population in the city and offers steel drummers, firecrackers and dancers. Finally the Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade and Festival is the grand parade which includes giant lanterns, elaborate floats, marching bands, acrobats and more. Whether you are looking for old or new traditions, New York is the perfect city to celebrate.
9. San Francisco, California
San Francisco boasts one the oldest and largest parades and festivals of the Chinese New Year outside Asia, and is the largest Asian cultural event in North America. In the 1860’s San Fran Chinatown was booming and residents were eager to share their love of celebration with those residents who had never experienced it. From that moment on, San Francisco has embraced this celebration and is truly a magical place to be during this time of the year.
The illuminated night parade remains one of the few nighttime parades in the United States and has been named one of the world’s top ten parades. Gorgeous floats, elaborate designs, specialty costumes, stilt walkers, exploding firecrackers, marching drumming bands, and acrobats will all move their way down the streets of the city. At the end comes the infamous 268 foot Golden Dragon which requires over 100 men and women to hold up. This celebration has gained so much attention that the United States based airline, Southwest Airlines is now the official sponsor of the parade. How is that for celebrating in style?
8. Vancouver, British Columbia
For a multicultural city like Vancouver, celebrating the Chinese New Year spreads across the city. The Chinese population of Vancouver is not just centered in historic Chinatown but also in Richmond. Both areas of the city offer up their own unique twist on the celebrations. The annual parade features intricate floats, marching bands, police teams, dancing dragons and lions and many dance troupes. Vancouver loves to put a quirky twist on the celebrations with its annual Gung Haggis Fat Choy Dinner, a 10-course banquet saluting Chinese New Year and offering unusual cuisine.
You won’t find a historic Chinatown in Richmond; instead you will find massive shopping centers that look more like modern-day Beijing. These shopping centers feature flower markets and other cultural events. Richmond boasts the 2nd largest temple in North America and visitors are encouraged to receive a blessing from the Buddhist temple. With hundreds of Asian restaurants throughout Richmond and Vancouver there is no shortage of authentic food and many offer New Year specials and delicacies you won’t find any other time of the year. Vancouver is truly an authentic place to ring in the New Year with over 20% of its population speaking one of the Chinese dialects as their first language!
7. Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles is home to some of the largest Chinese New Year celebrations across the country and this city just doesn’t stop at one annual parade. Of course there is an amazing annual parade with its outstanding floats, drummers, lion dancers and dance troupes that march down the streets in Chinatown. The midnight temple celebration kicks off the festivities where visitors can receive a blessing and light off hundreds of firecrackers. The shopping centers also take part with Chinese-themed décor, traditional dragon dancers and a towering New Year Wish Tree.
Universal Studios Hollywood celebrates the Chinese New Year in style with themed décor, characters dressed in traditional Chinese attire and a Mandarin version of the studio tour. Disneyland California has also jumped on board the celebrations and is decked out in lanterns and banners wishing visitors a Happy New Year, along with a variety of authentic Chinese musicians and dancers. Not to be outdone by Disney; Chinatown offers a scavenger hunt throughout the area along with free festivals throughout numerous parks.
6. Las Vegas, Nevada
Celebrate Chinese New Year in the desert when you head to Las Vegas; home to lively entertainment every moment of every day. The Chinese New Year beckons visitors to invite more luck into their lives and what better place to do that than Vegas. Every year the hotels and resorts transform themselves into displays of extravagant themed décor. Restaurants throughout the city offer traditional Chinese cuisine that may help you bring that extra bit of luck to your future.
Throughout the city there are numerous events and locations to celebrate. Chinatown Plaza offers the traditional lion and dragon dancers along with many vendors offering food and items for sale. Vegas puts its own unique spin on the celebrations with its Miss Asian American Pacific Islander USA pageant, complete with fashion show, talent competition and interviews. There is plenty of live music happening at the Fremont Street Experience, put on by the Chinese New Year in the Desert festival. This three-day festival also offers cultural performances, and an annual parade. Las Vegas is an incredible city to visit any time of the year but if you are here during the Chinese New Year prepare to be even more amazed.
5. Paris, France
Paris isn’t the first city you think of when thinking about celebrating the Chinese New Year but this magical romantic city turns into a city of celebration during the festivities. The large and thriving French-Chinese community turn the streets into a haven for parades and festivities. People from all backgrounds and tourists alike crowd the streets to watch this spectacular display of elaborate decorations, floats, dancers dressed as lions and dragons and firecracker displays.
Paris isn’t just about flashy parades and elaborate decorations though. Hidden away from the tourists and unsuspecting residents are two Buddhist temples located in the 13th district. Here families from Chinese, Vietnamese and Cambodia come to pay their respects and welcome in the New Year. Visitors throughout certain areas of Paris will be treated to demonstrations of Chinese arts and crafts, cooking and traditional dance and music. Paris is often referred to as the city of lights and when the paper lanterns are glowing red and the twinkling lights from the elaborate decorations are strung high in the air; you’ll see it really live up to that name!
4. London, England
London England takes pride in boasting that it holds the world’s largest celebration of the Chinese New Year outside of Asia. This city holds a one-day festival jammed packed with activities including an annual parade, performances and traditional crafts and food. There are three main areas in the city which hold these festivities; Trafalgar Square, Chinatown and Shaftesbury Avenue. Each unique in the specific activities and events they offer; visitors will have a hard time choosing which to do.
Chinatown offers the best of the best in terms of traditional food so visitors during the Chinese New Year should go ahead and book as early as possible to secure a table at one of the fabulous restaurants. Chinatown gets decked out in the most fabulous of decorations with lucky red lanterns and banners. Chinese dance groups and performers can be found set up on the many stages throughout. London may be a newcomer to the Chinese New Year scene but each year is becoming bigger and better and we cannot wait to see what happens next year.
3. Beijing, China
The mother of all Chinese New Year celebrations happens in Beijing China. Although the city is packed full of carnival like activities, festivals, firecrackers and parades here in Beijing they put a special emphasis on family and historical tradition. Families work hard at the end of the year to prepare their household for the celebration by decorating and cleaning, and use the first two days of the festival to visit with family. A lot of time is devoted to prayer and honoring their ancestors. Don’t worry if you are not with a family during the Chinese New Year in this city though; there are plenty of fun things to do and ways to celebrate.
Visitors will want to partake in a temple fair where cultural activities represent the traditional customs of Beijing. Chinese folk art, lion and dragon dancers and authentic food stalls will all be a part of the fairs. One of the most popular events to attend is the Reenactment of the Qing-Style Sacred Ceremony at the Ditan Temple Fair. Athletic competitions and demonstrations are held in numerous parks and invite visitors to take part and observe. The Longqing Ice and Snow Festival is a fairly new addition to the celebration of Chinese New Year and is home to incredible ice sculptures. Truly the mother of all celebrations; the time to visit Beijing is the time of the Chinese New Year.
2. Bangkok, Thailand
Thailand’s biggest celebration of the Chinese New Year takes place in Bangkok; home of the largest Chinatown in Thailand. There are normally three days of celebrations in this city with most of the excitement happening on the actual New Year day; and most Chinese taking the day off work to celebrate. Opening the festivities is the Thai Princess and she can be seen throughout the celebrations partaking in the fun. During the day temples are full of visitors and the parades start to fill the streets around noon. Expect plenty of dancers, floats, lanterns and drummers taking part in these parades.
Nighttime brings a different feeling to the city when the red lanterns get lit and light the sky up in a beautiful shade of red. The nighttime parade is a hit with its long dragon that is lit up with LED lights and brought to life. A main stage near the Chinatown Gate offers shows with acrobats spinning high in the air and musicians playing all night. The temples surrounding the area are usually decorated and lit up and provide a place of refuge from the busy streets; many are often full of beautiful flowers. make sure you remember your camera for this trip!
1. Hong Kong, China
One of the most popular destinations to celebrate Chinese New Year visitors should expect the city to be brimming with people, entertainment and fun. The territories biggest annual celebration mixes old traditions, practices and beliefs with new customs from the younger generations. This colorful festival promises amazing fireworks, parades and festive markets selling traditional food and blooms. The red lanterns light up the city making it even more magical than one can imagine. For the visitors hoping to gain some good fortune, the horse-racing track gets all done up in decorations and red lanterns and even offers a lion dance on the third day of celebrations.
There are two main events that cannot be missed; the first being the amazing computer controlled fireworks display that takes place over Victoria Harbor. The second celebration is the infamous night parade that travels along the streets of Tsim Sha Tsuji. The parade is made up of illuminated floats, performance artists and dancers. Hong Kong Disney climbs aboard the celebration train every year offering Chinese New Year events and attractions at the park; you will even find Mickey Mouse dressed in traditional Chinese attire. What better place to spend a Chinese New Year than in Hong Kong surrounded by authenticity, color and traditional practices.