Chinese New Year in China

chnyChinese New year is the longest and most important festival on the Chinese calendar. In China it is called the Spring Festival and lasts for 15 days. It is the tradition for those who live in the cities to return to their villages to spend the Spring Festival with their families. This, Chinese New Year coincides with one of the largest mass movement of people on the planet, and it is a time when many of China’s overflowing cities become relatively quiet. Except for when the New Year celebrations begin in earnest.

Following is how some of China’s most important cities celebrate Chinese New Year:

One of the loudest ways to ring in the New Year in Shanghai is also one of the most interactive. At Longhua Temple, worshippers countdown to midnight on New Year’s Eve, when a 3.3-ton bronze bell is struck exactly 108 times, a number believed to dispel evil spirits. But there is no abbot in this situation – the bell is rung by locals who pay a substantial fee to be part of the ceremony. The best bit? After the 108th gong, the general public are invited to strike the bell at a much lower price.

Temple fairs are one of the best ways to celebrate the Spring Festival. They bring together entertainment galore as well as opportunities to worship and contemplate the New Year. Dozens of fairs are held in parks and public spaces across Beijing. Highlights include:
• Ditan Temple Fair: Performers re-enact worshipping ceremonies of the Qing Dynasty. About one million people visit every year, so be prepared to rub shoulders with a few fellow Beijingers!
• Longtan Temple Fair: The festivities here are interactive, and performers encourage you to join in games, including table tennis and arm wrestling. Make sure you arrive hungry – there are plenty of snacks on offer.
• Dongyue Temple Fair: Colorful folk performances, artwork displays and acrobatics make this one of Beijing’s most fun festivals.

Of all China’s lantern festivals, the one held in Xian stands out for the fact that it is set on the city’s ancient wall, between the South Gate and Peace Gate. Eye-opening lanterns designed with different themes and colours (expect a few snake-shaped lanterns here!) are displayed before they are released. When you are not gazing skywards, enjoy entertainment by the Qinqiang Opera, puppeteers and acrobats.

Known as China’s “Flower City”, Guangzhou is alive with colour during the Spring Festival. Flower festivals erupt across the city, with displays and sales of auspicious New Year plants and flowers, including kumquat trees, peach blossoms and peonies – peaches are regarded as the strongest defence against the evil, and the peony is regarded as a flower of wealth and honour. The major flower fairs in Guangzhou are the Xihu Flower Fair, Donghu Flower Fair, Liwan Flower Fair and Tianhe Flower Fair.

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