Want to strut your stuff in the Chinese Year of the Rooster?
If you’re in Hong Kong – or Vietnam, South Korea or anywhere else in the world with a Chinese diaspora – it’s time to don that tacky red jacket, gamble until you lose and eat till you burst.
Yes, it’s the Lunar New Year; a time when the wheel of destiny decides whether you’ll be cock of the walk or just a feather duster in 2017.
While most will go to any lengths to get home to see the family, for some it’s a chance to travel, if only to get away from nagging relatives and red packet-hungry colleagues and friends (in China it’s customary to dispense red paper envelopes filled with money at this time of year.)
But traveling doesn’t have to mean forgoing the festivities. Here are 15 places where you can celebrate Lunar New Year in your own way.
Sha Tin Racecourse, Hong Kong
Gambling is as close to a religion as it gets in Hong Kong and Lunar New Year is an auspicious time to try your luck.
Held on the third day (January 30, 2017) of the Spring Festival, the Chinese New Year Race – hosted at Sha Tin Racecourse – is one of the most popular race days of the year.
Even if you’re not passionate about horse racing, the course throws live performances, a talk from a feng shui master and lucky draws to keep you occupied.
January 30, free entry for tourists; first race at 12:30 p.m.; Sha Tin Racecourse, Sha Tin, Hong Kong
Quang Ba Flower Market, Hanoi, Vietnam
One essential must-have for Vietnam’s Lunar New Year, or Tet, is a bunch of flowers and Hanoi’s Quang Ba flower market works at a frenetic pace during the festival.
Shoppers seek out the most eye-catching bouquets (usually peach blossom or ochna integerrima, the bright yellow blossom favored during Tet) amid the whirr and screech of the city’s ubiquitous motorcycles, all transporting bright bunches of flowers on their pillions.
The sights and sounds mixed with the fragrance of street food makes for a heady New Year sensual overload.
Quang Ba Flower Market, Au Co Street, Tay H, Hanoi, Vietnam; open daily from about 3 a.m.
Nuanquan Town, Hebei province, China
With a population of less than 20,000 – making it pretty much a tiny hamlet by Chinese standards – Nuanquan usually flies below the tourist radar for most of the year.
But on the 15th day of the Spring Festival, the sleepy town literally fires up with a spectacular grassroots “firework” display that has been UNESCO-listed as one of China’s great examples of intangible cultural heritage.
The da shuhua (translated as ‘beating tree flowers’) tradition is believed to be more than 500 years old and culminates in a jaw-dropping display where the local blacksmith hurls ladles of molten iron at town’s city gates producing a shower of sparks.
February 11, Nuanquan Town
Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul, South Korea
Dating back to 1395, Gyeongbokgung Palace in the heart of Seoul is the most impressive royal palace in the city – both historically and architecturally.
On the first day of LNY, Gyeongbokgung Palace will hold celebrations that include traditional folk games and performances.
Entry is free on that day.
Gyeongbokgung Palace, 161 Sajik-ro, Sejongno, Jongno-gu, Seoul; +82 2 3700 3900
Chinatown, San Francisco
For sure, Chinatown can be a tourist trap most of the time – but what better time to embrace it than at Chinese New Year?
As the largest Chinatown outside Asia, and the oldest in the United States, San Francisco’s Chinatown knows how to turn on a show during the buzz of Chinese New Year.
A series of events are lined up for the 15-day festival, including a parade featuring more than a 100 floats and assorted performances including a 28-foot-long Golden Dragon float.
San Francisco’s 2017’s Chinese New Year Parade takes place on February 11, at 5:15 p.m., starting from the corner of 2nd and Market Streets
Ditan Park, Beijing
Ditan Park doesn’t just throw the biggest CNY party in China’s capital city, its annual Ditan Park Temple Fair also transports visitors back to a bygone era.
The highlight of the fair is the reenactment of an imperial ceremony from the Qing Dynasty in which an “emperor” leads a crew of more than 100 performers to the Temple of the Earth to worship the gods.
The performance will take place daily from January 27 to February 3. The park will also be the venue for that great Chinese tradition, a food market complete with steaming cauldrons of delicious dumplings and spicy stews.
January 27 to February 3, Ditan Park Temple Fair, Ditan Park, Beijing
Around the city, Sydney
Home to one of the biggest overseas Chinese populations, Sydney is going all out during Lunar New Year.
Many of the city’s iconic landmarks including the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Town Hall will be illuminated bright red during the festival.
Lunar Lanterns in the shape of the Chinese zodiac signs will be installed around the city.
Check out Sydney’s Chinese New Year events on the city’s tourism website
Raohe Night Market/Wu Lao Guo, Taipei
For many, the Spring Festival is just another name for a two-week eating marathon and as a city famed for its street food, Taipei is an ideal place for a gluttonous holiday.
Raohe night market is flanked by street food stalls and nostalgic sideshow games along its 600-meter length.
Pepper cakes and fresh seafood skewers not your bag?
Then why not share a bubbling hotpot with friends and family? Elixir Health Pot (or Wu Lao Guo) is a trendy hotpot restaurant chain specializing in – either spicy or creamy – herbal broths with added medicinal benefits.
Raohe Night Market, Taipei
Wu Lao Guo, 36-1, Section 2, Zhongshan North Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei City, Taiwan
Central London, London
San Francisco may have the biggest Chinatown outside Asia, but when it comes to doing the festival right, London claims to throw the biggest Chinese New Year party outside Asia.
The day begins with a colorful Chinese parade that winds its way through the streets of the downtown West End district, followed by stage performances in Trafalgar Square.
There are traditional dance troupes, acrobats, dragon and flying lion dances, opera and martial arts acts.
The grand finale in Trafalgar Square ends with a fireworks spectacular.
Check out VisitLondon’s website for details of London’s Chinese New Year celebrations
Studio City, Macau
Macau may be best known as a gambling mecca – the Las Vegas of the South China Sea – but the city has been upgrading its family-friendly entertainment offerings in recent years.
Studio City is one of the latest integrated resorts to open in the gaming capital and features a 4D Batman simulator ride and a 40,000-square-foot Warner Bros-themed amusement center.
If that’s not enough, there’s the gigantic golden figure-eight Ferris wheel situated in the Studio City skyscraper.
The number eight in Chinese holds a special significance since the word has a similar pronunciation to the word for “wealth.”
Talk about auspicious.
Studio City, Cotai, Macau
Allas Sea Pool, Helsinki
In Chinese culture, the preparations ahead of Lunar New Year are almost as important as the day itself. During this period cleansing is an important ritual.
What better way to usher in the Year of the Rooster than a deep cleansing spa and sauna?
Allas Sea Pool is a public Finnish sauna complex offering an amazing view of Helsinki.
You can take a dip in one of the sea-facing pools before enjoying a steaming sauna session indoors.
Before taking to the showers, why not get a friend or even a stranger to whip your back with birch twig bundles to get the circulation going.
Allas Sea Pool, Katajanokanlaituri 2, Helsinki 00160 Finland
Los Glaciares, Patagonia, Argentina
If getting outside your comfort zone is one of your New Year’s resolutions, the Spring Festival is a great time to make the first step.
Stamina strengthening can be achieved by trekking the stunning Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina’s Patagonia.
The park is famous for its dramatic landscapes, including 47 large glaciers and three big lakes.
January and February lie in the warmer summer months and are considered the ideal time to visit.
Disney California Adventure Park/Universal Studios Hollywood, Los Angeles
Imagine Megatron from “Transformers” greeting you with a cheery “ni hao” (Chinese for “hello”)? Or Mickey Mouse fully kitted out in Chinese attire?
No, it’s not one of China’s numerous copycat theme parks, this is how Los Angeles’ most famous amusement parks celebrating the Chinese New Year.
Both parks are offering specially themed Lunar New Year activities to welcome the Year of the Pig, including parades, musical performances and special cuisine.
Disney California Adventure Park, 1313 Harbor Blvd.
Universal Studios Hollywood, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, California
First published in 2018, updated in 2019.