While the festive mood has already faded for other people after NYE, Taiwanese are still anxiously anticipating the biggest holiday of the year yet to come—Chinese New Year!
This 2019, Chinese New Year falls from February 4 (Lunar New Years Eve) to February 10. Following hot on its heels is the Lantern Festival on 19th February. These holidays for ethnic Chinese, similar to Christmas for other countries, are for family-gathering. That being said, foreign travelers can still indulge in plenty of activities and world-renowned festivals with the locals. In this guide we reveal all the festivals and things to do for your 2019 Chinese New Year in Taiwan:
What is Chinese New Year?
Also known as Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, it is the longest holiday celebrated by ethnic Chinese. In Taiwan alone, there are numerous cultural traditions, religious practices, food, festivals, and lots and lots of firecrackers (of course!).
From the New Years Eve to the fifth day of New Year, many customs are practiced by the Taiwanese. They plan a big cleanup of the house, hang up new red couplets, wear new red clothes, and have huge feasts with family and relatives. Children receive ampao or red money envelopes from the elderlies. Then on the New Year’s day, people visit each other for greetings. They also visit the temples to pray for a good fortune for a brand new year.
Without further ado, here are all the Taiwan major events and festivals you can take part in this year:
Chinese New Year Shopping at Taipei Di Hua Street (Jan 19 -Feb 3)
You might not need to shop for a lot of food like local mothers, but you can definitely get the New Year vibe at Di Hua Street! It is the most famous and historical shopping street in Taiwan for celebrating Chinese New Year.
As you make your way through the narrow street teeming with crowds, you’ll be surrounded by mountains of dry ingredients and herbs you’ve never seen before, including colorful candies, snacks, and much more. The sound around you may be overwhelming, as the vendors from each stand will not stop yelling, trying to persuade you to sample their food!
On top of that, if you go during a weekend afternoon, you’ll have a chance to sample some creative New Year’s dishes and make your own red couplets and red envelopes.
- Location: Section 1, Dihua Street, Datong District, Taipei 103 (Google Maps)
- How To Get There: Take MRT to Beimen Station, go out from Exit 3, and walk along Tacheng Street for 7 minutes
Visit the Temples (Feb 5)
Here’s a fun fact: Taiwan has the highest density of temples in the world. It means local beliefs, Taoism and Buddhism pretty much still play vital roles in their daily lives and communities. Chinese New Years is, of course, no exception. According to local beliefs, all gods return to heaven right before New Year and come back again at the fourth day of the year to look after people for another year.
Visit the temples on the New Year day, and you’ll see them flocked with families praying to “Heavenly Grandfather” (Tian Gong), the highest ruler of heaven and earth. In some well-known temples such as Dajia Jenn Lann Temple or Beigang Chaotian Temple host “Qiang Tou Xiang” activity, which means “to burn the first incense stick”. An hour before ringing in the Chinese New Year, the temple gates open. Look out as hundreds of worshippers rush in to be the first to burn the incense stick. The winner’s effort will be well paid off by a giant red envelope as the prize, and a full year of good luck!
Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival (Feb 19)
Remember that iconic scene from Disney’s Tangled? It’s very similar to the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival,a magical fairytale event in real life. It’s also praised by the U.S. Discovery Channel as the second biggest New Year’s celebration in the world! Every year at the Lantern Festival, people from near and far gather at Pingxi, write down their New Year’s wishes on paper lanterns, then launch thousands of fire-lit lanterns into the night sky. This cultural event has been in practice for about 200 years, reflecting people’s aspirations, wishes and dreams at the start of the year.
To witness such awe-inspiring sight, read our article “A Guide to Taiwan’s Pingxi Lantern Festival” for transportation details and fulfill your dream this year!
- Location: Shifen Sky Lantern Square (Google Maps)
- How to get there: Take the shuttle bus from Taipei City Zoo Parking Lot, or take TRA Pingxi Line from Ruifang Station.
Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival (Feb 18 – Feb 19)
In contrast to peaceful and poetic sky lantern festival in north of Taiwan, there is a much more thrilling, even dangerous festival taking place in the south—Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival. It is definitely not for the faint-hearted, as the screaming fireworks and firecrackers will be aimed directly towards you!
Aptly named, “Beehive Fireworks”, hundreds and thousands of bottle rockets flying out like bees, not to the sky, but at those watching. It is a traditional ritual originating from 1885, when lots of firecrackers were released to drive out evil spirits and epidemic.
For a full experience of this unique activity, one must put their safety as priority. Your skin must not be left bare for getting burned. Wear helmets with intact visor, layers of clothing, a pair of gloves, and strong shoes.
- To participate in the event, sign up here (scroll to the bottom for the English information. Registration ends on Feb 11).
- Location: Yanshui Old Street, Martial Temple, and Yanshui Junior High School
- How to get there: Take TRA to Xinying railway station, then take the Xingying bus to Yianshui.
Taipei Lantern Festival (Feb 16 – Feb 24)
Every major city has its own lantern festival, and the one in the capital city of Taiwan won’t let any visitor down. Located at the west historical district of Taipei, the lantern festival is more widespread than ever. From Red House at Ximen to Taipei Travel Plaza, you’ll see streets decorated with dazzling lights! There will be traditional lanterns, artistic light installations, light mapping on Beimen (the North Gate), and many other creative lantern displays themed around the Pig, one of the 12 animals from the Chinese Horoscope.
- Location: From Ximen to Taipei Main Station Area (Google Maps)
- How to get there: Take MRT to Ximen, Beimen or Taipei Main Station
Kaohsiung Lantern Festival (Feb 9 – Feb 20)
If you are visiting Kaohsiung in February, make sure you don’t miss the lantern festival taking place along the Love River. Hundreds of lanterns will be lit, and the river will be shimmering with all colors of lantern lights. Moreover, the festival will feature a nostalgic night market that offers traditional food and goods. It will surely bring the locals back to their childhood.
Not far away from Kaohsiung downtown is another grand lantern festival at Fo Guang Shan, the largest Buddhist monastery in Taiwan. From February 5 to March 6, expect a series of religious activities, lantern parades and displays that everyone can take part in for new year blessing.
Kaohsiung Lantern Festival- From Kaohsiung Bridge to Qixian Bridge (Google Maps)
Fo Guang Shan Lantern Festival- No. 1, Tongling Road, Dashu District (Google Maps)
Taiwan Lantern Festival (Feb 19 – Mar 3)
Just when you think 8 citywide lantern festivals in Taiwan are quite enough, there’s more. Each year, a chosen prefecture will organize a grand lantern festival on a national level. Taiwan Lantern Festival in 2019 will brighten up Ping Tung, the southernmost prefecture of Taiwan. Here, you’ll see a sea of illuminated lanterns like shining jewels and gems, glowing in various colors and shapes. Gaze upon these lights blending creatively with the sea lagoon landscape. So venture south and see Taiwan in a different light!
- Location: Ping Tung City, Donggang Township, and Dapeng Bay (Google Maps)
- How to get there: Free shuttle buses are available from TRA Chaozhou Station, Linbian Station and Kaohsiung International Airport
What you might need for your trip to Taiwan:
- Taiwan Unlimited 4G SIM Card (Pick-Up in Taoyuan International Airport)
- Taiwan High-Speed Rail Unlimited Pass
- Kaohsiung Private Tour: Fo Guang Shan Monastery, Lotus Pond