The Bird’s Word Blog
Exploring Lunar New Year Traditions Across Asia
Plus: Travel Tips for Your Next Adventure
The Lunar New Year, also known as Spring Festival in China, is a celebration marking the beginning of a new year on the lunisolar calendar. It’s a festival with a history spanning more than 4,000 years. Deeply rooted in customs and legends, it is primarily celebrated in China, Vietnam (where it’s called Tết), South Korea (Seollal), and by the Chinese diaspora worldwide. The festival begins on the first new moon of the lunar calendar and lasts until the first full moon, encompassing traditions ranging from family reunions and giving gifts of red envelopes (symbolizing good luck) to grand public celebrations including fireworks and dragon dances.
As the Lunar New Year adorns Asia with its vibrant colors and rich traditions, the Journeys International team has found ourselves inspired to learn more about how this festival is celebrated across the region. Are you curious about such festivities and whether or not it’s an ideal time to visit the places with grand celebrations? The Journeys team has done the research work for you, delving into whether this time of year is suitable for travel, exploring the nuances of each destination’s events, uncovering the best times to visit if you’re planning an adventure into Asia, and revealing how you can discover these countries with Journeys International (we’d love to have you join us)!
The Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, is China’s most significant holiday, featuring family reunions, traditional foods, and elaborate fireworks. Streets are adorned with red lanterns, symbolizing prosperity and happiness. Red envelopes, often with money inside, are gifted by elders to younger family members. It’s the biggest celebration of the year.
- Is the Lunar New Year a good time to visit China? While it could potentially be an insightful cultural immersion experience in the right context, due to extensive closures, the mass travel of locals, and winter weather conditions, travel throughout China during this festival often presents significant challenges for tourists.
- When is the ideal time to visit? The best periods are spring (March-May) and autumn (September-November), avoiding the festival rush if you’re looking to also visit important historical sites and engage in cultural activities.
- Does Journeys International offer adventures into China? Yes, Journeys offers customizable adventures, like our Enchanted China itinerary. We don’t currently offer any custom trip options during the Lunar New Year due to the number of closures and challenges in arranging travel.
In Thailand, the Lunar New Year is celebrated by its Thai-Chinese communities with vibrant street markets, dragon dances, and lantern festivals, particularly in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. While not a public holiday, it is still celebrated by several communities in Thailand with decorations, firecrackers, fantastic food, performances, and more for this occasion. Thailand also has its national New Year celebration, Songkran, which is celebrated on April 13th with street parties and water fights.
- Is Lunar New Year a good time to visit Thailand? Yes, for experiencing the fusion of Thai and Chinese cultures. It’s also a good time to visit Thailand for weather considerations.
- When is the ideal time to visit? The cool season, from November to February, offers a comfortable climate. However, depending on the region of Thailand you’re visiting and your travel goal, much of the year may be an appropriate time to visit.
- Does Journeys International offer adventures into Thailand? Yes, Journeys offers several customizable adventures. We are also offering a special group trip, Thailand Festivals of Water and Light Rare Journey, for 2024.
Tết, the Vietnamese New Year or Lunar New Year also transforms the country with its festive atmosphere, featuring flower markets, traditional foods, and reverence for ancestors. Red envelopes filled with cash are given to children and savory rice cakes are often served to mark the occasion.
- Is Tết/Lunar New Year a good time to visit Vietnam? Travelers should be mindful of the busy period and temporary closures. It is generally not recommended that international travelers visit Vietnam at this time because roadways and transportation can get very congested and difficult to navigate.
- When is the ideal time to visit? November – March is ideal for exploration, although some adventurers also enjoy the shoulder months.
- Does Journeys International offer adventures into Vietnam? Yes, there are several customizable trips offered in Vietnam.
Called Seollal, the Korean New Year is a Lunar New Year celebration marked by family gatherings, folk games, and special foods like rice cake soup. It’s a time for honoring ancestors and celebrating the coming year.
- Is the Korean New Year/Lunar New Year a good time to visit South Korea? It offers a unique cultural insight, but many businesses close and the weather can get below freezing this time of year. Travelers may want to wait until spring or fall to visit instead.
- When is the ideal time to visit? The best seasons for visiting are spring (April-May) and autumn (September-October).
- Does Journeys International offer adventures into South Korea? Yes! See our Discover South Korea customizable trip for more information.
While it’s not a national holiday, regions with significant Chinese populations, such as Jakarta and Bali, observe the Lunar New Year, called Imlek. You may see red lanterns, temple ceremonies, lion dances, and festive gatherings. Lunar New Year celebrations were banned until 2002, but are now marked with shop closures, decorations, and gifts of citrus or flowers.
- Is Lunar New Year a good time to visit Indonesia? Yes, Indonesia can be a wonderful destination year-round, including during the Lunar New Year.
- When is the ideal time to visit? Some travelers prefer the dry season, but Indonesia can be a great year-round destination depending on your travel goals.
- Does Journeys International offer adventures into Indonesia? Journeys has several customizable Indonesia adventures to fit a variety of traveler desires and needs, from Bali to Jakarta, through Borneo and the Komodo Islands, and beyond.
Though the Lunar New Year is not widely celebrated here, regions with significant Chinese heritage observe the festival with local events and traditions.
- Is the Lunar New Year a good time to visit Japan? For a unique, quieter experience amidst Japan’s winter beauty, it could be the right fit for the right person. However, Journeys International typically recommends travel to Japan in the spring and fall months.
- When is the ideal time to visit? March to May for spring blossoms and October to November for autumn foliage are ideal.
- Does Journeys International offer adventures into Japan? Yes, we have multiple customizable itineraries for Japan for solo travelers, couples, and families alike. A Rare Journey into Japan is also planned for Fall 2024 for those who enjoy once-in-a-lifetime group adventures.
The Lunar New Year not only marks the beginning of a new lunar cycle but also opens a window into the rich cultural heart of several countries across Asia. It’s an appropriate time for reflection, renewal, and mindful exploration of the practices and traditions of countries and communities around the world. The Journeys International team is here to cultivate wonder and guide you, ensuring your travel plans align with both the festive spirit and the practical aspects of international exploration. Embrace the beauty and diversity of Asia with us, and let the Lunar New Year inspire your next great adventure into this region of our beautiful world.
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