The Lunar New Year — represented by the pig in 2019 and observed in many parts of Asia — arrives on February 5. Here’s what you can get up to as you take in the 15-day celebration.
Temple fairs are a favorite among locals during the Spring Festival (an alternative name for the new year in China) and one of the biggest congregations takes place in the form of the Ditan Temple Fair, in Dongcheng District. Look out for lively traditional processions — such as the Qing dynasty-style prayer ritual for peace and prosperity — cultural performances led by local and regional acts, as well as stalls offering local sweets and snacks.
Take home… baijiu, a sorghum-based Chinese spirit that’s especially favored during special occasions like Chinese New Year. To take home a bottle or two, look to Wuliangye — one of the biggest names in baijiu — which has stores all over the city. wuliangye.com.cn
Petaling Street, part of the Malaysian capital’s Chinatown, gets lit and livened up with red lanterns, night markets, lion dances and of course, fireworks. The fireworks take place throughout the new year but are especially exciting on the eve (February 4) and on the ninth day of celebrations (February 24; for the birthday of Jade Emperor, the first god in Chinese mythology). While there, don’t forget to check out the many shops selling festive home décor, where you can purchase pig-themed mementos.
Take home… ang ku kueh (“red tortoise cake” in Hokkien), an offering to Chinese deities on ritual altars, as well as a delicacy during the Chinese New Year. Available in a number of flavors — including yam, mung bean, durian and coconut — ang ku kueh represents prosperity and longevity, and is often part of local festive feasts. Check out Nyonya Colors for the freshly made kueh. nyonyacolors.com
The annual River Hongbao event (runs until February 10), held at the Floating Platform in the Marina Bay area, is a unique new year tie-in affair. Enjoy stage shows, games, theme park rides and more, and expect fireworks displays on February 4 and 5.
Take home… tea, which is perfect for when you’re loading up on deep-fried new year snacks. Check out Pin Tea’s Singaporean inspired blends — like Tekka Minute (jasmine-based). Pin Tea’s products are stocked at Naiise stores. IG: @pinteaonline
Venture out of the city to the mountainous district of Pingxi (about three hours from Taipei city by train), to catch the annual Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival, which marks the end of the Lunar New Year. Join locals and travelers, who will gather in Pingxi’s Old Street, and release as many as 200,000 hot air balloons — emblazoned with their new year wishes — into the sky. The festival also consists of folk performances and riddle contests.
Take home… pineapple cakes, which symbolize luck and fortune, and are a common sight in homes and markets during the new year. Seek out SunnyHills when you’re in Taipei for the brand’s rectangular boxes filled with the sweet confectionery. sunnyhills.com.tw
Head over to Chinatown in Binondo from the evening of February 4 for traditional lion and dragon dances that will circle around Ongpin, Soler and Sta. Cruz streets then visit the Seng Guan Temple on Narra Street to usher in the New Year before enjoying dishes for prosperity (fish), happiness and longevity (noodles).
Take home… blessed charms, round fruits, sticky tikoy and egg tart from Lord Stow’s Bakery at G/F Unit E Imperial Sky Garden, 707 Ongpin Street.
Photos by Shutterstock.com
This article first appeared in the February 2019 issue of Smile magazine.