Based on the lunar calendar, the New Year is always the first day of the first lunar month (this coming year it is on February 3, 2011) and lasts two full weeks ending on the fifteenth day with the full moon. Most people get at least one week off of work to spend time eating lavish meals and welcoming the new year; which means factories are usually closed during the first week of the new year (from February 3-10). The Chinese New Year celebration is actually the single largest annual migration of human beings, when China’s nearly 150 million migrant workers return home from the big cities to see their families. Be sure to take this into consideration when setting up production schedules and shipments as the New Year will have an impact on your factories. In addition, if you happen to be traveling in China during this time, you will find extremely crowded airports, train stations and hotels.
Seeing as how I was already doing the research, I decided to include a little history on the background of the holiday and where you should go to celebrate just in case you do happen to find yourself in China that week.
While Americans celebrate winter with turkey, sleigh bells and mistletoe, the Chinese celebrate their most important holiday with dumplings, fireworks, lanterns and parades. The New Year, also called Spring Festival, is arguably China’s biggest, most important celebration that has been celebrated for centuries and is deeply rooted in myth, legends and traditions.
The main focus of the celebration? Family and prosperity. A few days prior to the first day of the New Year, it is customary to clean and prepare for the celebrations, in efforts to “sweep away” the bad luck of the previous year and make room for the New Year’s good luck.
New Year’s Eve in China is full of parties with family and friends, firecrackers and lots of food. It is customary to serve dumplings to symbolize the coming of wealth and a new year replacing the old. Children are often given gifts of money and fireworks are often set off all over the cities.
Over the next two weeks, people spend time visiting families and catching up with relatives. Spring Festival ends on a high note on the fifteenth day, with the Lantern Festival, or Yuanxiao. Lanterns are typically made by children who march through the streets beneath the full moon. Lantern shows, games and dancing take place all over China, but a few of the most notable celebration spots are in Hong Kong, Beijing ,and Shanghai, where the “lanterns” look more like huge, brightly lit floats.
Chinese New Year in Hong Kong
If you are going to be in China, Hong Kong has a spectacular parade and fireworks show on the second day of the Lunar New Year. Starting at around 8pm in Victoria Harbor, the streets are lit up with colorful costumes, music, performers and floats. Following the parade is a magnificent fireworks show that continues into the night throughout the cities.
Chinese New Year in Beijing
Beijing’s impressive Lantern Festival is held every year in Longtan Park. As China’s capital, Beijing has extensive experience with putting on world-class Lantern Festivals, including the many performances for the Olympics Games in 2008, so you are in for a good show.
Chinese New Year in Shanghai
If you are going to be near Shanghai, head out to the Yuyuan Garden for a festive atmosphere with traditional sticky rice balls (the round shape represents wholeness and unity) and lanterns of all shapes and sizes.
You don’t have to travel to China to celebrate though; Chinatowns all over the world have celebrations as well. Here is a list of Chinatowns all over the world.