It’s been a long while since I last felt excited about celebrating the Chinese New Year.
The preparations leading up to the new year always felt like a chore – from spring cleaning to even having to brave the crowds to buy new clothes.
In fact, it’s been years since I’ve worn new clothes for the first day of the Lunar New Year.
But more than the chores, part of the lack of enthusiasm could also be because of the lack of festive cheer in Singapore.
I mean, other than in Chinatown, what festive cheer is there to talk about?
So if you, like me, are bored with spending the Chinese New Year break in Singapore, why not head to China where the festive spirit is much stronger?
I had the opportunity to spend the Chinese New Year in Beijing and Tianjin a few years back, and I realised that the spirit of celebration lasts throughout the 15 days of the Lunar New Year.
One of the most interesting aspect of the Lunar New Year are the Spring Festival Temple Fairs.
Temple fairs were originally related to the religious activities of temples, but today, they’ve become more renowned for their shopping markets and entertainment events.
Ditan Temple Fair, for instance, is one of the most popular and long-standing fairs in Beijing.
And there’s a wide range of folk performances and activities such as acrobatic shows and dragon and lion dancing.
But you have to be able to withstand Beijing’s subzero temperatures though, as all the performances are held outdoors.
Fireworks and firecrackers are also a big part of the Chinese New Year there.
In Tianjin, for instance, people will be walking along the frozen Hai River on the last day of the Lunar New Year, setting off fireworks and holding sparklers in their hands.
But you do have to be careful with these pyrotechnics.
My friend and I were ice-skating on Tianta Lake in Tianjin, and she left some unlit sparklers near her bag.
However, sparks from the sparkler she was holding flew onto the unlit pile and it burst into flames.
The next thing we knew, her entire bag had been engulfed in flames.
Of course, it could have been worse.
But fortunately, it was only her bag, though everything was charred to crisps by the time the sparklers stopped igniting and we could get to the bag.
You can enjoy the spectacle of fireworks lighting up the sky without having to set them off yourself though.
Throughout the 15 days of the Lunar New Year, I could see fireworks bursting in the night sky everywhere in the city, even from my apartment.
But enjoy it while it lasts.
Last year, warnings of heavy smog over central and eastern China had prompted the country’s weather forecaster to call for a ban on fireworks during the Lunar New Year period.
And the reason was that firecrackers and fireworks can release large amounts of toxic gas and particles into the sky.
Oh ya, one last thing before you plan your holiday to China – book your tickets early.
The whole of China will be on the move during the Lunar New Year festive season.
This is my last post for the month before I head off to enjoy the Chinese New Year break.
So see you in March, and have a Prosperous New Year.
Gong xi fa cai!