This post is part of the Chinese Blog Hop organized by Two American sin China. Find a link to all the other participants’ posts at the end of the post.

One of the main reasons I fell in love with China is its unique culture and fondness for tradition. I was lucky to have spent two Chinese New Years in China and experience this especially important holiday first hand. Now that I live in South Korea, though they also celebrate the Lunar New Year, I do miss spending the special time of the year in China. I’m also giving away a special gift for New Year’s to one lucky reader (more information at the end of the post)!

Chinese New Year

Here are my most memorable moments of spending Chinese New Year in China:

Eating until your Belly Bursts

Similar to holidays in the west, food seems to be a big part of Chinese New Year. Even if you aren’t celebrating with locals, you will see street vendors and local restaurants offer seasonal products all over the place. My favorite foods during Chinese New Year are the yummy dumplings, which the entire family makes together traditionally, as well as Tang Yuan, sweet balls made from glutinous rice flour. They have all kinds of different fillings, but traditionally, they come with black sesame paste filling.

by John
by John

Seeing Cherry Blossoms for the first time

I have always been so intrigued by cherry blossoms when I saw them in movies or photos. Until this day, cherry blossoms just fascinate me. Before I moved to China and traveled to Nanjing for Chinese New Year, I had never seen real groups of cherry blossoms, coloring the world in pink and making it a better place. I remember walking through the Nanjing Cherry Blossom Festival area which opens around Lunar New Year and be left jaw-dropped by the beauty of these trees. In the warmer parts of the country, you are able to see the first cherry blossoms of the season just in time for the new year celebrations! What a treat!
blossom2
Nanjing Cherry Blossom Festival

Mastering Total Chaos and Masses of People

Contrary to many recommendations, I took it upon myself to travel along the east coast of China (QingdaoNanjing – Suzhou – Hangzhou) during Chinese New Year last year. This time of the year is infamous for the masses of people traveling from A to B and nearly trampling each other half dead. However, I do not regret traveling during Lunar New Year at all.

I booked my flights rather early and got great deals on hotels. However, I did experience crowds of local tourists when I was in Suzhou and Hangzhou, which was still bearable. I can honestly say that Chinese New Year is not necessarily a travel obstacle – depending on where you go.

suzhou
Tongli near Suzhou

Decorations Galore

The Chinese are famous for their grand fireworks shows but also excel in decorating their cities and towns with the most creative and over-the-top decorations I have ever seen. The key decoration element is the animal of the zodiac of the new year. 2016  is the year of the monkey and you can see monkey-themed decorations all over the country. It almost seems as if cities compete with each other about the title of the most glamorous pieces of décor – all according to the motto “bigger, brighter, louder”.
Besides the decorations all over the city, people also go crazy decorating their homes and hanging up new lucky banners and red decorations on their doors and windows. This was also one of my favorite things to do during Lunar New Year in China.

10991695_1026646344016788_3956305764038819393_o

Watching a Traditional Dragon Dance

When you think of Chinese New Year, probably one of the first things that comes to mind is a dragon dance. However, soon after I moved to China I learned that these barely exist anymore or are simply “hired” by big companies to perform on the premises believing to bring good luck. Thankfully, traveling during Chinese New Year, I walked right into a traditional dragon dance at the famous water town of Tongli just outside of Suzhou. I was as happy as a child on Christmas when I saw the giant head and heard the drum sounds playing traditional sounds. At that moment, I had finally found the China I was looking for.
by Christopher Paquette
by Christopher Paquette

Buying Cute Red Envelopes

The custom of giving red enveloped filled with money to children is one that has existed for over a thousand years. However, the modern versions of the hongbao 洪保 have especially sparked my interest. When I lived in China, I bought packs of cute envelopes featuring Hello Kitty, lucky cats or simply cherry blossom trees decorated with glitter and silver and golden Chinese characters. I haven’t used them, I like to decorate my apartment with them or just keep them as a memory of great times.
hongbao

Anxiously Awaiting Korean Lunar New Year…

This year, I am celebrating my first Lunar New Year in South Korea! I will spend the holidays with Jeongsu and his family and will write a detailed post about my experience after the holidays.


Lunar New Year Giveaway

For this year’s Lunar New Year, I am giving away three of my favorite hongbao / red envelopes pictured above to three lucky winners! All you need to do is follow the instructions below and you have a chance to win one of these adorable red envelopes!

 

Chinese-New-Year-Blog-Hop-1

This post was part of a Chinese New Year blog hop organized by Two Americans in China. Please check out the other blog hop writers’ Chinese New Year related posts:

  • LeighAndersonRomance

    I love the little red envelopes. I have stacks of them because I can’t help buying them every year.

    • yes, exactly! they’re just too cute not to buy. I started buying Korean ones too this season 😀

  • I was fortunate to see cherry blossoms in Changsha a couple of years ago. It’s a shame they bloom for such a short time because if you don’t go the weekend they bloom, you will probably miss them!

    • yes, they’re super sensitive aren’t they. I’m going to the Korean cherry blossom festival in Jinhae at the end of March. I cannot wait!

  • Susan Blumberg-Kason

    I want those red envelopes. Now. So stinking cute!

    • hehe, they’re adorable, aren’t they? 🙂

  • Leona

    I love how happy people are in general, people don’t look as miserable on public transport and people in wechat groups are busy sending cute animations of hongbaos, or animated animals singing about the new year

  • O)nly saw the dragondance once in Helsinki in 2010! Never experienced it in China 🙁
    But yeah, New Year time is over eating time, my stomach still hurts!

  • Rose

    I’m learning about it for the first time, I like the use of bright colors (esp. red) used in celebrations..

  • Laura Nalin

    I went to China last year for the Chinese new year and it was INSANE. The fireworks/firecrackers went off for a solid 48 hours straight. I had never seen or experienced anything like it. We watched the famous television show before midnight with our hostel owner and lit fireworks after. We made our way to the roof of the hostel and I have a video of all the fireworks going off. It seemed everywhere I looked I was able to see them. So hectic and wild, really. I wish I’d seen a dragon dance. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • yeah I remember the neighbors would light firecrackers in the mornings lasting the entire day. I hated that part 😀 I was so happy to run into the dragon dance! hope you get to see it some day!!

  • Gina Panozzo

    The cherry blossoms are a beautiful dark pink just like the ones in Okinawa! How beautiful. I saw Dragon Dances in Hong Kong during the Western New Year, but I bet they’re not as hella bomb as the ones during the Chinese New Year. My next question… How did you not trample everyone? hahaha.

    • How did THEY not trample me!! it was nuts but worth it!

  • They have cherry blossoms in bloom this time of year?! That’s awesome! I really want to see a dragon dance and visit Suzhou! What a fun new year! Thanks for sharing!

    • Yeah! Suzhou is quite south- near Shanghai so they bloom earlier than in Korea! But I went to Jeonju this weekend and already saw one tree blossoming!! it’s comiiiiing!

  • Lindsay Mickles

    Thanks very much for sharing this post! I’ve considered going to China for Lunar New Year and this helped me gain a bit of insight as to what I should expect! I was really interested in the bit about the dumplings (haha)… I’m a HUGE fan of Korean mandu and am always curious as to the traditional stuffings from other countries! Thanks again ^^

  • Katie McGrain

    I would imagine that Chinese New Year in China would be nuts! Love the eating part — all that street food and eating until you burst is one of the reasons I travel! So cool that the cherry blossoms are already blooming this time of year!

  • Yay! I got it to work!!! Super interesting post on Chinese New Year. My cousins are half-Chinese so I’ve gotten a glimpse of the celebrations from an insider’s perspective. I even remember getting hongbaos myself from their Chinese grandmother and thinking how cool the Chinese were that they gave away presents in shiny red envelopes. My hometown of Boston also has a great Chinatown and I’ve seen many dragon dance parades in my day. Its inspiring that you’ve embraced the Chinese culture so wholeheartedly 🙂

  • Wendy Flor

    We call the red envelopes “ampao” in the Philippines. One of the Chinese tradition that we are now practicing, too. Comes Christmas season, we give cash to children. But we also give cash to some adults, too. Tsk. This post makes me remember and miss the dragon dances we watch each Chinese New Year. It was very interesting to watch.

  • Love that shot of the dragon dance! That’s one of my favorite parts about living abroad… stumbling across little bits of culture in progress 🙂

    Also, any festival which involves ‘eating till your belly bursts’ is my type of event!

  • Jaclyn Chua-Park

    Love the envelopes!!! Wish I was able to join earlier!
    Btw, did you try putting in red money packets in the dragon/lion’s mouth? That’s supposed to bring you good luck 😉

  • deany

    I love cherry blossoms, they are gorgeous, it’s not hard to see why it made your list. I’ve never experienced I Chinese New Year but the idea crossed my mind this year. The mass crowds deterred me but it looks like you had a great time

    • oh definitely! the crowds suck but it was a wonderful trip!!