So the Chinese New Year (of Rabbit) is finally here. And if you haven’t booked yourself a holiday package in Thailand (or have any other escape plan) by now, don’t despair. We’ve compiled a list of fun and family-friendly things to do to celebrate the Chinese New Year, in style.
Visit temple fairs: Check out at least one temple fair to get into the spirit of the Chinese New Year. There will be snacks, arts and crafts, traditional performances, as well as LOTS of people. Most temple fairs will be held from 2-9 February this year, with the fairs at Ditan Park, Longtan Park and Chaoyang Park being the most famous. Go here for a full list of temple fairs in Beijing.
Make (and eat!) jiaozi and tangyuan: Jiaozi (dumplings) represent good fortune due to their resemblance to ancient Chinese money, while tangyuan (sticky rice balls with sweet fillings) are traditionally eaten as dessert on the Lantern Festival, which falls on the last day of Spring Festival (17 February this year).
Play with firecrackers and watch fireworks: Firecrackers go on sale in designated shops all around town during the Spring Festival. Just a word of warning, every year there are horrific tales of accidents caused by firecrackers so be extremely careful! Also, observe the city regulations which stipulate that, apart from New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, no fireworks are allowed between midnight and 7am for the rest of the Spring Festival (4-17 Feburary). If you just want to watch, Houhai is a good place to go for fireworks. However, if you are not too crazy about the noises, keep a pair of ear plugs handy.
Sports and Outdoors
Go ice-skating: The frozen lake of Houhai is an ideal place to go ice-skating or try the speedy ice bikes. There are plenty of indoor options too – Le Cool in Guomao, All Star Champion Skating Club in Solana or Ice Zone in Shunyi.
Ski and snowboard: Beijing has quite a few snow-covered mountains for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. Nanshan Ski Village and Duolemeidi Mountain Resort are two of the most popular ski resorts.
Snow Paradise in the Bird’s Nest: The Bird’s Nest is hosting its second annual Happy Snow Season. Designed for children, the popular “snow paradise” includes a castle, snow maze, snow cube and a DIY chocolate station.
Visit Ice Festivals: The famous Harbin Ice Festival starts on January 5 until the end of February. Don’t want to go all the way to Harbin? Consider Longqing Ice and Snow Festival, a mere 90km northwest of Beijing.
Take a hike: Hiking in the freezing Beijing winter may not be all that appealing at first glace, but the blue skies and clean air go a long way to make up for the cold. Just make sure you rug up. Beijing Hikers run regular hikes in the hills around Beijing and many of them of family-friendly.
Read a book: Snuggle up to a book in the warmth and comfort of your home can be a real joy this time of the year. The Bookworm has a lending library of over 16,000 books, or you can purchase books online at amazon.com or amazon.cn.
Have a movie/TV show marathon: This needs no further explanation. With the ready availability of dirt cheap pirated DVDs in the capital (and elsewhere in China), you can in theory spend your entire Spring Festival indoors glued to your TV or laptop screen without ever braving the cold outside. Of course, here at beijingkids we don’t recommend such an anti-social behavior.
Bake & crafts: Make the best of your time with some cooking and craft fun. Easy Kids Recipes (www.easy-kids-recipes.com) and Children’s Recipes (www.childrensrecipes.com) have kid-friendly recipes, while Amazing Moms (www.amazingmoms.com) and Cut Out and Keep (www.cutoutandkeep.net) are full of creative craft projects ideas.
Play mahjong: Another highly addictive activity, particularly in the dead winter of Beijing. It’s lively, noisy and not as complicated as it looks (well, at least the simpler games aren’t). Grab a friend to teach you and before you know it, you’ll be playing mahjong through the night with bloodshot eyes during the Spring Festival. Approach with caution.