Make your Chinese New Year Fun
The best ways foreign students can celebrate Chinese New Year during their stay in China are highly dependent on the student’s willingness to explore. Chinese New Year celebration is one of the most important festivals in China. It is the time when Chinese people gather as families in their respective locations to celebrate their culture and heritage.
Here, I take you through some of the best ways international students can celebrate Chinese New Year to make the most out of it.
Foreign Students: Best Ways to Celebrate Chinese New Year
As an international student living in China, it is important to know how to make the most out of the Chinese New Year.
In this blog, we discuss some important tips that will make your experience a spectacular one.
Chinese New Year is one of the most important festivals in China. It is the time of the year Chinese people from all over the world come together to celebrate their culture and heritage.
The Chinese celebrate the New Year with feasting, fireworks, and lanterns. It is a great time to experience Chinese culture in its most vibrant form.
What is the Chinese New Year Gala?
Chinese New Year Gala is an important Chinese event which includes Chinese singing, music, and dance performances.
It is a mega show that Chinese people enjoy watching every year. It’s telecast live on every local television station in China and online.
The Gala is an important event on the Chinese New Year calendar. It is that time Chinese families gather at the dining table to eat dumplings whilst enjoying the New Year Gala.
Watching the Gala is one key way foreign students can celebrate Chinese New Year in style.
The Lantern Festival marks the end of Chinese new year festivities. It is celebrated with spectacular fireworks and lanterns.
Chinese people make colourful Chinese lanterns to decorate their homes and streets in celebration.
Best ways foreign students can enjoy Chinese New Year: what to do ahead of the festive season!
Chinese New Year Celebration usually starts around late January or early February.
So make sure you plan your activities very well. Otherwise, it will be one of the most boring experiences in China for you.
Plan with friends or family in China
It is important to talk with your Chinese friends or family since they know the Chinese New Year rituals and customs inside out. They are also familiar with Chinese culture more than you.
Outline your activities for the holidays
Most Chinese cities celebrate Chinese New Year with parades, fireworks, lantern festivals and other activities.
It is important to check out all the events in your city and plan ahead for what you want to do during your Chinese New Year holidays.
How can international students enjoy the Chinese New Year?
Chinese New Year celebration is full of festivities and activities. Enjoy the Chinese Dragon dance, go to temple fairs, attend Chinese operas and more.
You must eat the traditional Chinese New Year food as it is a part of Chinese culture.
Try out authentic Chinese dishes such as dumplings, tangyuan (also known as sweet soup balls), Chinese cabbage and other Chinese delicacies, etc.
Don’t forget traditional Chinese Cuisine
Often, Chinese people use Chinese New Year as an opportunity to eat traditional Chinese dishes. You should try to experience Chinese cuisine when you visit Chinese restaurants during the New Year.
Chinese culture is full of surprises. Hence, don’t be afraid to experience different things during Chinese New Year, such as Chinese opera, Chinese calligraphy or Chinese martial arts.
You can also try traditional Chinese games like mahjong and Chinese chess. With an open mind, you’ll be able to enjoy yourself to the max.
What are the best gifts for friends and families during the Chinese New Year?
Chinese New Year is the perfect time to show your love and appreciation for your family and friends.
Chinese New Year gifts usually carry symbolic meanings and it is important to pay attention to these meanings when preparing your gifts.
As a result, Chinese people give each other meaningful items as a way to show love and wish good luck, health, happiness and fortune for the coming year.
Some popular Chinese New Year gifts include lucky Chinese coins, gold jewellery, Chinese tea sets, Chinese calligraphy art and Chinese medicines.
These symbolic gifts will send your warm wishes to the receiver and help to bring them good luck in the upcoming year.
Learn more about gift-giving in China here
What is the essence of Red Envelop or Hongbao during Chinese New Year?
The Chinese red envelope, or hongbao, is a traditional Chinese gift that has been around for centuries and is an important part of Chinese New Year celebrations.
Red envelopes are usually given by the older generation to their younger family members or friends as a symbol of love and appreciation. The money inside is meant to bring luck, good fortune, health and wealth to the receiver.
The red envelopes are a great way to show your love and appreciation for the family during the Chinese New Year.
Forbidden Chinese New Year gifts
Though Chinese New Year is a time to exchange gifts, there is a list of Chinese New Year No-nos when it comes to Chinese gift-giving.
Chinese people believe certain gifts are unlucky and should be avoided during the Chinese New Year.
Forbidden Chinese New Year gifts include clocks, pears, umbrellas, white flowers, shoes and storks, green caps/hats etc. Chinese people also avoid giving handkerchiefs as Chinese New Year gifts since this is a sign of mourning.
By avoiding these Chinese New Year No-nos you will be sending the best wishes possible for Chinese New Year.
How to celebrate Chinese New Year in a grand style!
You do not need to break your account to enjoy the Chinese New Year as an international student. Yes! You’ve heard me right, there are simple activities most universities organise ie. games, Chinese dish bazaar, opera, movies etc. to entertain international students on campus. Don’t miss such activities whenever you’re on campus.
However, if your budget isn’t tight, you can travel within China to see new places and make new friends. Try new foods and new adventures to enrich your experiences during your stay in China.
Well, in as much as I encourage you to enjoy yourself, I will also entreat you not to do things to fall short of the laws in China.
Be mindful of your safety as well in everything you do.
Hangout with friends
Hanging out with friends and family is one major element that characterizes the celebration of the Chinese New Year. After a busy academic calendar, it is time to rejuvenate your body and mind for the new semester.
The festive season is also an excellent opportunity to shop for traditional Chinese items. International students who want to make the best out of the Chinese New Year can buy Chinese lanterns, Chinese costumes, Chinese dolls, Chinese calligraphy and Chinese New Year decorations.
Observe Chinese customs as a foreign student to enjoy the Chinese New Year
You should also observe Chinese customs, such as giving red envelopes with money in them or lighting fireworks on Chinese New Year’s Eve. This will help you understand Chinese culture better and show respect for Chinese beliefs.
Be mindful of the amount you put in the red envelope. Ask a Chinese friend for guidance.
How to enjoy the Chinese New Year as an international student
No Chinese New Year is complete without Chinese music, Chinese dance and Chinese acrobatics. Attend performances and shows in theatres to make your Chinese New Year celebration even more memorable.
Visit tourist sites
Most Chinese cities have a wealth of Chinese tourist sites that are worth checking out during Chinese New Year.
For instance, you can visit the Great Wall, Forbidden City and other Chinese landmarks to get the full Chinese New Year experience.
You can also visit Beijing’s Temple of Heaven or Shanghai’s Bund and many other interesting sites.
Enjoy Chinese food
Chinese food is an essential part of Chinese New Year celebrations. During this season, Chinese restaurants will usually offer special Chinese dishes to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Try out Chinese delicacies like dim sum, Peking duck and Chinese noodles.
Don’t forget to try out typical snacks like Chinese New Year goodies, like Chinese fortune cookies and Chinese tea.
How to plan a stress-free travel during Chinese New Year!
Human movement in China during Chinese New Year is one of the largest on earth in terms of human movement during festive seasons. As a result, the cost of flight tickets becomes more expensive.
Train and bus tickets on the other hand are mostly non-available at the peak of the mass travel period because the demand is extremely high.
So, to be on the safer side, plan ahead of time and book your ticket accordingly.
Start reserving flights or train or bus tickets early. Chinese New Year is celebrated over a two-week period, so, you can plan ahead to get the best deals on your Chinese New Year travel.
Plan alternative routes
Because of the mass travelling and rush for tickets, travellers sleepover in the train stations. Hence, it is advisable to have alternative routes such as taking a bus (if possible) or charter a car if you’re in a team.
Get the place(s) you want to visit ahead of time
Having your itinerary for the Chinese Year celebration ahead of time is helpful. It saves the foreign student the last-minute pressure. As such, international students can enjoy every bit of the Chinese New Year celebration.
Book your bus, train or flight
Make sure you have all transportation arrangements sorted out before the Chinese New Year rush hour periods. As this can be a busy period for transportation networks.
Be sure to book tickets in advance, if possible, and check train schedules, bus routes and flight availability.
The saying “the early bird catches the worms” is evident during this period.
Arrange for your accommodation on time
Getting good and convenient accommodation could be a daunting task during the Chinese New Year Celebration. So, hey! Get things done on time.
Participating in activities during the Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year lasts for 15 days and offers plenty of opportunities to learn more about Chinese culture. You can also explore different Chinese cuisines.
Here are some activities that international students can do to maximize their Chinese New Year experience in China:
1. Visit Chinese temples
Chinese temples are a great way to learn about Chinese culture and get a glimpse into Chinese traditions.
2. Explore Chinese cuisine options
Chinese New Year is the perfect time to explore different Chinese cuisine options in local restaurants and street stalls.
3. Participate in lion or dragon dances
Lion or dragon dances are a great way to learn more about Chinese customs and music.
How to get around?
One of the easiest ways foreign students can enjoy the Chinese New Year celebration is to travel within or outside the city where they reside. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to get around during the season. Here are some tips on how to make your travel easier:
1. Use ride-sharing services
Ride-sharing services such as DiDi can be a great way to get around the city if you don’t want to rely on public transportation during the Chinese New Year.
2. Try out bike sharing
Bike sharing is becoming increasingly popular in most Chinese cities. And it can be a convenient way of getting around during Chinese New Year festivities. However, only those who ride bicycle can enjoy.
You can find many bike rental spots scattered across Chinese cities and rent them for your rounds.
3. Take advantage of metro systems
Metro systems may become overcrowded during Chinese New Year. Interestingly, they can still be a great way to get around Chinese cities if you don’t want to rely on other means of transportation.
Chinese New Year Food Traditions
Chinese New Year is a great opportunity to learn more about Chinese food traditions. Here are some Chinese New Year food traditions that you can explore:
1. Eating Chinese Dumplings
Chinese Dumplings are traditionally eaten during Chinese New Year. It is a symbol of wealth and prosperity for the coming year. So, as a foreign student eager to maximize your experience during the Chinese New Year, I entreat you to enjoy dumplings as much as you can.
2. Enjoying Chinese sweets
Chinese New Year sweets such as Tangyuan (glutinous rice balls) or Nian Gao (sweetened sticky rice cake) are traditional desserts that bring luck for the coming year.
3. Eating fish dishes
Fish is an important part of Chinese culture and it is traditionally eaten during Chinese New Year as a way of wishing for abundance in the coming year.
4. Chinese Hot Pot
Chinese hot pot is a popular Chinese dish and it is usually enjoyed during the New Year celebrations. Hot pot symbolises family coming together and sharing food.
Stay Connected During Chinese New Year
As an international student wishing to make the best out of the season, it is important to link up with friends and families within and outside China. Thankfully, the internet or social media comes in handy at this time.
Chinese New Year can be a great time to stay connected with friends and family back home, so be sure to have a reliable internet connection during this period.
Here are some tips on how to stay connected during Chinese New Year:
1. Get a reliable internet connection.
China has one of the most reliable and cheapest internet in the world. During the holidays, try and connect with your loved ones and chitchat.
2. Use VPN services
Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and many foreign websites or Apps are blocked in China. Therefore, you can access the blocked Apps and sites through the use of a VPN.
So make sure you have a reliable VPN service during your holidays.
3. Join Chinese social networks
Joining Chinese social networks such as WeChat or QQ can be a great way to stay connected with Chinese people during Chinese New Year celebrations.
A lot of Wechat groups made up of foreigners and Chinese share interesting jokes and information or electronic re-envelope during this time.
Event organisers also use the Wechat platform to share relevant information about their activities.
4. Set up international calling plans
Setting up an international calling plan is another great option if you want to stay in touch with friends and family back home during Chinese New Year.
Chinese Calligraphy and Painting Exhibits to optimize foreign students’ experiences during Chinese New Year
Chinese calligraphy and Chinese painting are two Chinese art forms that have a long history in Chinese culture.
Chinese New Year is a great time to explore Chinese art and experience Chinese cultural heritage first-hand.
Here are some tips on how to experience Chinese calligraphy and Chinese painting during Chinese New Year:
1. Visit museums and galleries
Major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Xiamen etc., all have many museums and galleries showcasing various works of calligraphy and painting.
Be sure to check out these exhibitions during the Chinese New Year period.
2. Attend local festivals
Many smaller cities in China will also host local festivals where you can appreciate folk arts such as Chinese calligraphy and Chinese painting.
3. Try Chinese calligraphy yourself
During Chinese New Year, many Chinese universities will also set a day for Chinese calligraphy for international students.
Whether you’re an art lover or just looking to learn something new, Chinese calligraphy and painting are great activities during the festive season.
Chinese Traditional Games
Chinese traditional games are a great way to experience Chinese culture during Chinese New Year.
Here are some Chinese traditional games that you can try:
1. Chinese Chess (Xiangqi)
Chinese chess is a two-player strategy board game played on an intersecting grid. It’s similar to Western chess, but with different pieces and rules.
2. Chinese Checkers (Gomoku)
Gomoku is a two-player board game where each player tries to connect five stones in a row before the other player does.
3. Go (Weiqi)
Go is an ancient Chinese board game that has been popular for over 2000 years. The aim of the game is to capture as much of the board as possible.
4. Chinese Mahjong (Ma Diao)
Chinese mahjong is a four-player game where players try to build sets of matching tiles and score points.
5. Pai Gow
A Chinese gambling game that is played with tiles. The goal of the game is to create two hands, one with five tiles and the other with two tiles, that will beat the dealer’s hands.
Traditional Chinese game that is similar to hacky sack. The game involves kicking a shuttlecock with your feet and trying to keep it in the air as long as possible.
7. Dou Di Zhu
A popular Chinese card game that is often played during Chinese New Year. Basiically, the game involves playing cards to get rid of your hand while preventing others from doing the same.
8. Liar’s Dice
A dice game that is popular in many parts of the world, including China. The game involves players rolling dice and making guesses about the total number of dice with a certain number facing up.
These Chinese traditional games are great ways to bring together family and friends during Chinese New Year.
Try them out and have fun with your loved ones this Chinese New Year.
Chinese New Year Shopping Tips for international students to maximize their experience
Chinese New Year shopping can be quite an experience–with bustling markets, vibrant street stalls and long queues everywhere.
Here are some tips on how to make your Chinese New Year shopping trip more enjoyable:
1. Shop in smaller groups
Shopping in smaller groups can help you avoid the long queues at popular stores or markets.
2. Do your research
It’s always good to do some research about the stores and markets you plan to visit before Chinese New Year, so that you know where to get the best prices or discounts.
3. Use cash instead of cards or WeChat or Alipay
Many Chinese stores/markets still don’t accept credit/debit cards, so make sure you bring enough cash with you when doing Chinese New Year shopping.
Wechat pay and Alipay are the two major payment Apps that make life very simple in China. If you have any of them, your payment woes are curtailed.
Checkout how to use WeChat Pay and Alipay here.
4. Bring a bag with you to the market
Carrying a shopping bag along to the market is kind of a culture in China. –so make sure you are well-prepared with a comfortable bag for carrying all those Chinese trinkets home.
Why is the Chinese New Year named after animals?
The Chinese New Year is the most important Chinese holiday. It is named after the Chinese zodiac that follows a 12-year cycle.
Each year corresponds to an animal sign. This animal naming system dates back to ancient times and was used by Chinese people as a way to track time and mark important moments in their lives.
What animals are used to name Chinese New Year?
The Chinese zodiac animals are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.
In Chinese tradition, each animal is associated with certain character traits or qualities that Chinese people believe will be bestowed upon those born the same year as the respective animal.
What are the symbolic meanings of each Zodiac animal in the Chinese New Year?
The Chinese zodiac animals have different symbolic meanings associated with them.
Check out the meaning of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals:
Symbolizes wealth and fertility
Stands for hard work and honesty
Represents courage and strength
It is associated with luck and longevity
Symbolizes power and good fortune
Signifies wisdom and intelligence
It is a sign of freedom and independence
Symbolizes peace and kindness
Shows a sign of intelligence and creativity
Signifies punctuality, determination and communication
Represents loyalty, responsibility and companionship
Stands for wealth, honesty and good luck.
Why do the Chinese use red colour as the Chinese New Year Dress Code?
Red is the Color of Luck. Red is the most popular colour during Chinese New Year since it symbolizes good luck and happiness.
Chinese people also like to wear brightly colored clothes for Chinese New Year festivities, as these colors represent energy, joy and prosperity.
The Chinese New Year celebration offers international students living in China an opportunity to gain more insights into Chinese culture.
I hope these tips will help you make the most out of your Chinese New Year experience.
Happy Chinese New Year!