As soon as the new moon arrives, the whole nation will bring its traditions to life for two amazing weeks, culminating with the Lantern Festival. Fireworks, markets, sports competitions… you won't know where to look first with all this creative energy going on! It's a magical time characterized by one symbol in particular – the red paper lantern. You will see them hanging everywhere, in public places and homes alike; lit by a candle, they twinkle in all four corners of China. But where is the best place to experience this unique event in a country the size of a continent?
Beijing or Hong Kong?
In Beijing, ancient capital of the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, temples invite onlookers to watch martial arts shows and dragon and lion dances. The temples of Ditan, Longtan and Dongyue provide a fabulous backdrop to fairs with stalls loaded with handicrafts and local specialties of every kind.
Over in Hong Kong, the Spring Fair coincides with the longest holiday period of the year. To mark the occasion, inhabitants of this New York of the Orient spill out onto the streets. Three fun-filled days of festivities include a night-time carnival parade, shows starring international performers and, on the second day, gigantic firework displays lighting up the sky above Victoria Harbor. The following day, the excitement of the crowds steps up a notch as Hong Kong hosts the country's most popular horse racing event. Over 100,000 ecstatic fans are expected to fill the stands at Sha Tin racecourse.
Destination Shanghai for a cosmopolitan festival
Cultural melting pot and modern China's showcase city, Shanghai will enter the Year of the Dog by upholding its many different traditions.
On the stroke of midnight, the younger generations will gather in the parks or on the banks of the Huangpu River to take part in a Western-style countdown.
If you prefer local customs, slip inside the doors at Longhua temple, a Buddhist temple watching over the city. Offerings in hand, Shanghai worshippers go there to pray, burn incense sticks and ring the bell in a moving ceremony, all in the hope of ushering in good luck for the coming year.
You could decide to spend this family festival at Guangzhou. The great metropolis of the south and its Liwan Lake Park are engulfed in a fairy-tale vision of lights and colors. Boats laden with a thousand glimmering lanterns float past on the Grand Canal. Flower markets come alive with small folklore performances. Galleries and street stalls display the most beautiful canvases and calligraphy by local artists. The Year of the Dog starts tomorrow, so get yourself over to China right away . The memories will live with you forever!