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How to Celebrate a Luxurious Lunar New Year Every Year

how to celebrate a luxurious Lunar Chinese New Year

Over 1.5 billion people celebrate Lunar New Year each year. The festivities range in location from China and Singapore to South Korea and Vietnam. And of course, in the cities in the West where there is a large population from Southeast Asia. Which made us wonder: how do you celebrate this momentous global holiday in style? Here’s how to celebrate a luxurious Lunar New Year, including what to know about luxury gifts, where to travel, what you need to know about food, drink, traditions and more.

How to Celebrate a Luxurious Lunar New Year Every Year

Here at Dandelion Chandelier, we love every holiday and we invite ourselves to be a part of them all – ‘cause why not?

We asked a number of our jet-set friends who are based in Asia (or who travel there frequently) about how the luxury class celebrates Lunar New Year – also known as Chinese New Year and the Spring Festival. Special thanks to our Asia bureau chief for going above and beyond to get us the inside details.

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Here’s a quick primer on the basics we should all know.

How to celebrate a luxurious Lunar New Year every year, including what to know about luxury gifts, where to travel, food and traditions.

what determines the date of lunar new year every year?

Like Hanukkah, to outside eyes it may appear that Lunar New Year randomly shows up each year on the calendar. Not so.

This holiday is based on the lunar, not the Georgian calendar – meaning that while it always falls sometime between late January and late February, it’s on a different date on the Georgian calendar each year.

The holiday is called the Lunar New Year because it marks the first new moon of the lunisolar calendars traditional to many East Asian countries, including China and Vietnam. Lunisolar calendars are regulated by the cycles of the moon and sun.

what determines the animal each year?

In Chinese tradition, on a rotating basis each year is associated with one of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac cycle. The 12 Chinese horoscope animals are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig.

As a further complication, there are 5 different kinds of each animal, based on the elements: fire, wood, earth, gold (or metal), and water.

how to celebrate a luxurious Lunar Chinese New Year

How to celebrate a luxurious Lunar New Year every year, including what to know about luxury gifts, where to travel, food and traditions.

The associated animal and element is said to determine the personality traits of those born that year. For example, 2021 is the Year of Ox. Specifically, the Metal (or Gold) Ox. People born in one of the years under this sign are said to be diligent, dependable, strong and determined.

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Gifts and other lunar new year traditions

Gifts of red envelopes containing “lucky money” at CNY are considered mandatory for “children” (defined as anyone who has not married) and for staff: household workers, restaurant waiters, club staff, caddies and the like. The act of giving a red envelope is a gesture of good luck, and the receipt of a red envelope is also considered to be good luck. Win-win! (There are now numerous “red envelope apps” where people can give money electronically).

How to celebrate a luxurious Lunar New Year every year, including what to know about luxury gifts, where to travel, food and traditions.

Other traditions include the ringing of bells; fireworks; watching traditional lion dances, dragon dances and parades; red decorations and lanterns; special paintings; and gold coins with the animal of the year on them. Depending upon the country, there are usually 2-3 days set aside as national holidays.

Food and drink for Lunar New Year

New Year’s Eve is customarily celebrated with extended family at home. On New Year’s Day, a family lunch or dinner is held. Both of these events are usually done with the husband’s family (on the third day of the New Year, the family traditionally returns to the wife’s family for a meal).

On New Year’s Day, special foods are prepared with names similar to auspicious symbols. For example, a type of dried oyster sounds like “good things;” the name of one black fungus sounds like “to make wealth.” Families conduct open houses where friends can stop by to offer good wishes for the New Year; traditionally, they also clean their homes to sweep away bad fortune.

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traditional do’s and don’ts for Lunar New Year

Speaking of bad fortune, there are some interesting superstitions about what might trigger bad luck in the New Year: taking medicine, eating porridge, doing laundry, washing your hair, using knives and scissors, borrowing money, and wearing white or black on the first day of the New Year have all been considered at various times to be bad luck. As have giving someone a clock or a pear as a gift. You’ve been warned.

How to celebrate a luxurious Lunar New Year every year, including what to know about luxury gifts, where to travel, food and traditions.

top luxury travel destinations for Lunar New Year

The patterns for holiday travel differ sharply by location in Southeast Asia. Wealthy Singaporean Chinese generally remain at home for the holidays. While in Hong Kong, nearly everyone with money travels. As the middle class expands, those from the People’s Republic of China are also hitting the road.

So where will the uber-rich from China, particularly Hong Kong, be going?  In most countries in Southeast Asia, Lunar New Year means that stores and restaurants are likely like to be closed or to have shorter operating hours. As a result, most won’t be travelling to neighboring cities – like Taipei or Bangkok – unless they’re visiting family. Instead, they’ll be heading to ski vacations or visits to glittering big cities in other countries.

1. Niseko, Japan

Hokkaido is one of the newest popular ski resorts with the elite. Once there, travelers seek out new-age ryokans that are sleek and modern, with private hot tubs in each room. For larger families and groups, there are plenty of villas for rental.

How to celebrate a luxurious Lunar New Year every year: Niseko, Japan is a popular destination.

The snow is great and the food is incredible: our insiders say that people do not hesitate to spend $300+ per person for dinner. The sukiyaki is particularly popular during the holiday because of the warmth from the hot pot.

2. Tokyo

For those taking a longer break – a week instead of a long weekend – many will combine a trip to Niseko with a stop in Tokyo. One source reports: “In Tokyo, most Hong Kong visitors spend their time going to restaurants, especially the specialty Japanese restaurants serving only steak, tonkatsu, tempura, sushi/sashimi, and soba noodles.”

How to celebrate a luxurious Lunar New Year every year: Tokyo, Japan is a popular destination.

The other popular activity is shopping. The Loro Piana store at Gotemba Outlet Mall is especially popular (it’s about 90 minutes from Ginza). Savvy visitors hire Cantonese-speaking drivers who know all the best destinations.

3. Whistler, British Columbia, Canada

Whistler is popular with travelers from Hong Kong because of its relative proximity. Many Chinese families have second homes in either Vancouver (West Vancouver in particular) or at Whistler itself.

How to celebrate a luxurious Lunar New Year every year, including what to know about luxury gifts, where to travel, food and traditions.

How to celebrate a luxurious Lunar New Year every year. Vancouver is a popular destination.

In addition to the ease of access, Whistler/Blackcomb is appealing because of its wide range of food options. The restaurants are great, and many feature seasonal Canadian products. One friend reports “Whistler is so popular that during Lunar New Year it is not unusual to bump into people you don’t normally even see in Hong Kong.”

4. Beaver Creek, Colorado

Beaver Creek is the popular destination for Hong Kong families with kids in school in the US. Oftentimes, Lunar New Year coincides with President’s Week, so the kids in boarding school have a long weekend to ski. Slope-side condos at the Ritz Bachelor Gulch and the Park Hyatt are popular, as are the dining options in Vail.

5. Europe, especially London

Western Europe can be a draw during the Lunar New Year break. Many wealthy Chinese families have flats in London (culturally, this connects back to the old colonial days when they attended school there). Sometimes Lunar New Year coincides with the English public school holidays, making it an ideal time to visit kids who are studying in the UK.

6. Australia

The Land Down Under is the final spot  highly popular with the Hong Kong elite. Lunar New Year coincides with summer in Sydney, and there are numerous non-stop flights. There’s no time-zone change, so this is a popular option for wealthy older residents who may find it harder to move around. There is a large Chinese population in Australia, so there are plenty of Lunar New Year festivities.

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what to know about visiting Asia for Lunar New Year

So, as a tourist, should you visit Southeast Asia for CNY? Our insiders say that ideally you should go a week or two before the holiday, or perhaps a week after, but not for the holiday itself. They strongly recommend against mainland China, in particular, as the holiday approaches.

A week or two before CNY, the weather is nice throughout most of Southeast Asia – it’s not nearly as hot and humid as it will be a couple of months later. The large cities are beautifully decorated. For example, in Hong Kong, the buildings in Central and Kowloon are all aglow.

How to celebrate a luxurious Lunar New Year every year, including what to know about luxury gifts, where to travel, food and traditions.

How to celebrate a luxurious Lunar New Year every year.

The downside of visiting too close to the start, or during the actual holiday period itself, is that if you want to shop, many stores will be closed. Restaurants will be very busy – in Singapore in particular – because families will be gathering. The airports and railroads will start to snarl a few days before the big day itself. In some cases it’s because residents are heading abroad. In others, it’s because they’re heading home.

Mainland China’s factories close for 1-2 weeks and for some the new year is the only vacation time they get. The result is a bustling travel period known as Chunyun: a huge migration from Beijing and Shanghai to their home villages. CNN reports that this is the largest annual human migration in the world. Hundreds of millions of people travel by train, road or air. Unless that’s your idea of fun, you should probably avoid it.

top lunar year celebrations outside of Asia

Never fear – even if you can’t make it to the region in time for this year’s celebrations, there are plenty of great ways to celebrate at home. Any major city with a meaningful population from Southeast Asia will have parades, decorations and special meals somewhere in town.

How to Celebrate a Luxury Lunar New Year Every Year

That’s what our experts had to say about how to celebrate a luxury Lunar New Year every year, including what to know about luxury gifts, where to travel, food and traditions. Happy New Year, all! Stay safe and strong out there, dear reader.

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