Back to work already? Hang on! The holiday isn’t over yet! China’s Spring Festival actually carries on for a full 15 days each year and only officially ends on Lantern Festival. This year, Lantern Festival takes place on Friday, March 2. Wonder what Lantern Festival is all about? Check out our full guide on this special holiday here.
During the official Spring Festival holiday, tens of millions take to the road, air and rail to travel to their hometowns and visit with family members that they haven’t seen all year. It’s a relaxing, tummy-filling period used to catch up with old friends and relatives and share laughter and hongbaos over tea or a big meal while watching the five-hour Spring Festival Gala and other shows on TV. Recently though, there have been two major changes for this traditional holiday. The first is physical hongbaos being replaced by digital hongbaos. If you’ve joined any Chinese chat group on Wechat, you will have certainly seen digital hongbaos being sent back in forth. Although the value isn’t very high, it’s a way of sending good wishes for the New Year.
The second major shift has been going abroad to travel instead of going home. Many people in China simply can’t take a full week off from work any other time of the year and now that China’s average income has been steadily increasing, more and more people have disposable income to spend on things like travel.
How do foreigners spend their time in China during Spring Festival?
Most foreigners are a bit afraid to travel domestically during this period as the transportation systems are complete chaos so they just hunker down and enjoy life without traffic jams. Some comically say it feels like you’re the last person on earth. Others, however, will use this chance to return home and leave China altogether. Another alternative is to travel around SE Asia or other neighboring countries; however, as just mentioned, more Chinese people will also be doing the same thing so that may not be the best option if you’re hoping to escape the crowds. There are also foreigners who are invited to their close friends’ hometowns to spend the holiday. This can be one of the best ways to experience “real China”. Just make sure you’re aware of a few taboos surrounding the New Year as many Chinese people (especially the older generation) are rather superstitious.
Regardless of how you spent the Chinese New Year, enjoy these last two days by sending out some digital hongbaos and lighting up some lanterns into the evening sky. Lantern Festival is truly a magical evening to enjoy as thousands of lanterns take to the sky.