How to Celebrate Chinese New Year in Taiwan

Red Lanterns | © Joe Le Merou / Flickr
Red Lanterns | © Joe Le Merou / Flickr
Photo of Ciaran McEneaney
8 January 2019

It’s the most eagerly anticipated holiday of the year and the perfect opportunity for those abroad to come back to visit the family home; as far as holidays go, it’s number one in Taiwan. So if you have the chance, it’s a great time to visit the region, and if you have some Taiwanese friends, then all the better.

When is Chinese New Year?

The Lunar New Year usually falls in February – however, national holidays in Taiwan begin on New Year’s Eve and run until the following week.

On New Year’s Eve, many people return to their family homes for a big reunion that includes a huge meal to celebrate the coming of the New Year.

What to eat during Chinese New Year in Taiwan

There are quite a lot of traditions associated with the Lunar New Year here in Taiwan, many of which involve Taiwanese people’s favorite pastime – eating!

Foods play an integral role in Chinese culture, with many holidays and observances having their own particular dish or food that must be eaten on that day. And if you think Chinese New Year is any different, then think again.

While many businesses close down for the holidays, restaurants stay open and do a roaring trade. However, there are still some foods that every family must have in their kitchen come the New Year.

These must-eat foods, such as Nian Gao (dumplings) and pineapple are an essential part of the New Year celebration, and you can read a little more about them here. Just remember that when visiting a Taiwanese family during Chinese New Year, try everything on the table, but don’t finish the fish! It’s good luck to leave some leftovers.

Don’t finish it all! | © llee_wu / Flickr

Things to do during Chinese New Year in Taiwan

Unlike many other regions that celebrate the Lunar New Year, Taiwan has very few events organized during this holiday. Some locals will make their way to a temple hoping to be one of the first to pray to the gods at the stroke of midnight, while others visit places of worship on New Year’s Day. But that’s about it.

Here, the holiday is very much a family-oriented time of the year, so the majority of Chinese New Year traditions tend to take place in the family home. While other communities around the world may celebrate with parades and the like, Taiwanese prefer to spend their time in the company of their family, particularly their grandparents and parents. But that doesn’t mean that things quiet down – far from it.

See the sights

While families often spend New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day at home, they will often take short trips during the days that follow. For this reason, many of the island’s tourist attractions enjoy their busiest periods of the year during the holidays. Now, it might seem a little odd to suggest seeing the sights during such a busy time, but really it’s not. You have to remember that this is one of the happiest times of the year in Taiwan, so there’s always a great atmosphere no matter where you go.

Spend some money

This is also a time when you’ll find some absolute bargains in Taiwan’s many department stores. Business owners will offer huge discounts in the New Year in the hopes of enticing locals to spend some of their hard-earned bonuses. And with all those red envelopes exchanging hands at the start of the holidays, even those without bonuses have money to spend.

Set off some fireworks

There’s no doubt that while Chinese New Year is the happiest time of the year, it’s also the loudest. Locals set off firecrackers and fireworks throughout the night, particularly on New Year’s Eve, so you might want to join in the fun.

Firecrackers at the ready | © mingyang su / Flickr

While there are no official fireworks displays during these holidays, just take a walk outside in any neighborhood, and you’re bound to find someone setting off some firecrackers. Take care though, the legality of setting off fireworks in Taipei City is still under review. And although it’s not illegal, it’s frowned upon in some areas.

Spend time with family

You may not have a Taiwanese family, but if you get the chance to visit a friend’s family home, then don’t let that opportunity slip by. Family is what Chinese New Year is all about, and if you can spend some time with yours or a friend’s family, then that’s precisely what you should do. Immerse yourself in the culture, play mahjong, eat delicious foods, and above all else, enjoy yourself.

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