As the world develops, people increasingly have the demand to travel more to learn new things. Yet no matter where they go, how long they go, people still have the desire to return to a familiar place with their loved ones on certain occasions. While many countries choose Christmas for family reunions, most Asian nations pay special attention to the traditional holiday in the spring. This year, due to the impact of the Covid-19 epidemic following some new variants, this ritual may not be as complete as before. There will be people who can return to their families, while those who cannot tend to find unique cultural destinations to ease their nostalgia.
Spring in Asia is the time when every family gathers to welcome the beginning of a new year. Many countries in the region have a tradition of celebrating the lunar year such as Vietnam, China, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, Nepal or Bhutan. On this occasion, people often return home and immerse themselves in the lively festive atmosphere with many interesting and typical activities of their locality.
Near or far, still towards each other
Going home on the reunion holiday is the most common thing for people who study or make a living far from home. By the end of 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic has been basically controlled in many places, allowing people to freely travel and return to their homeland in time to welcome the lunar year. In the past, people would go to each other’s houses to celebrate, eat and drink, but in the new normal, many people tend to stay at home to keep themselves and their families as safe as possible.
However, the recent appearance of the Omicron variant has also caused concern in some localities and they still require strict quarantine. That’s why with the limited number of days off, many people are unable to return home from afar to visit family this spring. But they still enjoy the Lunar New Year atmosphere through the online and virtual activities of their home destinations as well as participate in the activities of their own Asian communities where they live.
Here are some activities in Asian countries that tourists can head to at the beginning of the lunar year. In order to create the right atmosphere and taste of the traditional Lunar New Year, destinations will perform rituals as well as prepare the most typical dishes for this occasion.
The Chinatown Chinese New Year Celebration 2022 Official Street Light-Up event with hundreds of colorful lanterns is one of the activities in Singapore that attract many tourists in the new year. This activity takes place from 7 pm everyday from January 7 to March 2, 2022. Everyone may choose one or more recycled lanterns they like after the festival ends. The opening ceremony this year will be held virtually like last year.
To welcome the Year of the Tiger, everybody can also watch WWF and Temenggong Tigers Sculptures on display from 7 to 26 January 2022 at Kreta Ayer Square. There will also be a Chinatown Wishing Tree at Chinatown Point Atrium from 7 January to 15 February. Visitors can donate a minimum of 2 USD for a card to write the wishes for themselves and loved ones and hang the card on the tree. All proceeds will go to Kreta Ayer – Kim Seng Community Development Welfare Fund. This will be used to organize community programs to help the needy elderly and low-income families.
For the first time, visitors can also enjoy a “Getai” performance online. Getai is a popular form of entertainment in Southeast Asia with songs and plays to commemorate the deceased. Famous getai artists will perform their best songs and dance at online getai. Besides, there are other interesting online activities such as Love Letter Baking, Tiger Origami, etc.
For Chinese people, the lunar new year (or Spring Festival) lasts for 40 days with multiple sub-festivals and rituals. At home, families decorate windows with red paper cuttings and adorn doors with couplets expressing auspicious wishes for the new year. They also often hold the Lantern Festival, where people eat tangyuan or sweet glutinous rice balls, and carry lanterns around the neighborhood.
In previous years, during chunyun, or spring migration, hundreds of million, even a billion people traveled to their hometowns in China for family reunions and New Year’s celebrations. However, this year, the pandemic has prevented the “world’s largest migration” yearly. The Chinese government has issued guidance restricting non-essential travel and encouraging people to celebrate the new year at home.
The Chinese community in countries and regions outside of China has organized online programs so that everyone can come and join in the fun. For instance, the community in Houston, Texas, the USA, has announced the paid event “Year of the Tiger” on February 5, 2022, from 11 am to 4 pm. Activities include Chinese calligraphy, traditional dance, paper cutting, lion dance, zodiac game, etc.
On a larger scale, the National Museum of Asian Art will organize a range of online programs in the new year. In particular, people can watch the “Lunar New Year’s Eve Reunion Dinner: Holiday-Inspired Cooking Demos” on January 31, learn about Emperor Qianlong on February 8, learn Meditation and Mindfulness on February 11,…
Regarding Vietnam, in the lunar new year (or Tet), families will decorate their houses colorfully with apricot flowers, peach blossoms, kumquat pots laden with fruit,… The usual traditions are to worship ancestors like many other Asian countries, take Ong Tao to heaven on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month, give lucky money to children, and make dishes such as banh chung, frozen fatty meat, pickled onions, leeks, spring rolls, etc.
This year, the Lunar New Year of Vietnam and countries such as Korea, China,… is on February 1, 2022 of the solar calendar. Some provinces in the S-shaped country have planned festivals and fireworks. The Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee has decided to organize Nguyen Hue Flower Street in 7 days, from January 29 to February 4, 2022 and the Book Street Festival with the theme “Spring in the homeland – Warm compassion”. Epidemic prevention measures will be thoroughly applied during this time.
However, recently, leaders of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism asked cultural management departments across the country to proactively advise localities to stop fireworks and festivals in 2022 in order to ensure that all residents as well as tourists welcome a safe and healthy Tet season.
The lunar new year of South Korea is called “Seollal”. In the land of ginseng, people will not sleep on New Year’s Eve. They often wear traditional hanbok or choose the best clothes and perform ancestral worship. In addition, Korean families also prepare a sophisticated feast with more than 20 dishes, including tteokguk (rice cake soup). People will go to the market early in the morning to buy “bokjori” (shovels plaited with straw), hanging up high on their houses’ walls to catch good luck and fortune.
Visiting Korea during Seollal, visitors also have a chance to participate in traditional folk games, a major part of New Year festivals for Koreans. The most commonly played game is “Yut Nori”, a traditional Korean board game. They can also go out for some kite flying, starting on the Lunar New Year and in the days leading up to the new year’s first full-moon day.
Asian countries have their very own traditions and important rituals of welcoming the lunar year, which can attract tourists from all over the world. Because of the pandemic, this year, a lot of people cannot return to their hometowns, but thanks to the interesting activities of local communities abroad or activities on online platforms, the Lunar New Year celebration is expected to remain meaningful to everyone.
In the era of digital technology, people can travel on virtual reality platforms. Similarly, they also have the ability to “visit” their loved ones through screens and video calls. No matter how far apart they are, as long as their hearts are always towards each other, spring days are warm and happy enough for them.