Tips You Should Know About Spring Festival Before Visiting Taiwan
The Spring Festival, also known as Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year is regarded by the Taiwanese as the most important annual festival. The importance of this lasting two weeks holiday is often compared to Christmas in the Western Culture. Just like Christmas, it is preceded with weeks of wearisome preparations when families are thoroughly cleaning their homes to drive the bad luck and old things away from the house and get ready for a brand new start. Once the cleaning is done, people will go shopping and buy plenty of new clothes what makes a perfect match to the new start.
Spring Festival is a time of joy, family reunion, tables full of delicacies and moments bursting with traditions, such as gift giving, including the famous red envelope (hongbao). Again, for the Taiwanese it’s the season to be jolly, for foreign travelers however, whether it is the best moment to make it to Taiwan is yet to be announced. But all is not lost! As the saying goes, you don’t need to wait for the perfect moment, take the moment and make it perfect.
Spending Spring Festival in Taiwan? Brace yourself
If you have scheduled your trip to Taiwan right for the celebration of the Lunar New Year, there are probably a few things you might need to know upon your arrival.
Being the biggest and most celebrated festival, it comes as no surprise that Taiwanese get the most cherished week off from work to visit their relatives and friends. Even though the Spring Festival travel rush is on much smaller scale that the one on the mainland, it’s still very much noticeable resulting in congestion and traffic giving many travelers a headache. On the other hand, aside from the bus stations, highways and other routes frequented by locals, Taiwan will be a winner for people who do not necessarily look for fuss. During Spring Festival people are looking forward to rejoice with their relatives and so most Taiwanese will travel back home leaving the major cities, especially in the north, calm and empty. The sight of deserted MRT stations and walkways is something to be appreciated in Asia. Just think how much time you can save by not needing to suffer the infamous Taiwanese mile long queues.
Emptiness or crowds
Nonetheless, the overwhelming space comes with a price. Most of the traditional small shops and restaurants are family run and operate all year long. In fact, you get the feeling that they never close, however during Spring Festival a large number of owners will decide to shut the business down and take an extended break. Many tourist attractions will be closed for first days of the Festival as well. All in all, everybody deserves a time off to do some proper celebration and kick off the New Year with joy and fun away from every day routine. With many places that are not operational during the holidays, going around certain areas might be somewhat inconvenient. Unless, you are into some serious adventures and love to go off the beaten track in search of hidden pearls. Can’t really say no to that. In addition, avoiding top tourist attractions ‘flooded’ with domestic travelers might be a good idea. Beat the crowds and find more authentic ways of spending your time on this beautiful island.
Still, if you want to get the most out of your trip and don't put yourself under any unnecessary stress one thing to confirm before arrival is the accommodation. You want to make sure everything is well planned ahead as there is no room for last minute bookings or spontaneity. Hotels are not only packed with local visitors, but are also taking advantage of the travel rush by raising the prices. Common practice or not, it doesn’t mean that you have to spend a tone on your journeys. It’s always better to get that extra portion of fried chicken or maybe even one extra hotpot instead.
Breaking the misconception
When I first arrived in Taiwan seven years ago, I had this image in my head of Chinese New Year expecting bustling city life with omnipresent lion parades, fireworks and firecrackers. The reality turned out to be rather different from what I have imagined. Official celebrations are not as widespread as one might have expected and are hard to encounter if you don’t know where to look. If you are in for joining the events across Taiwan check out the locations beforehand. Most of the information are available online. Some of the events you do not want to miss are: Bombing Master Handan Festival in Taitung and Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival. If you are bold enough and seek for an adrenaline boost, go ahead and participate in the Yanshui Beehive Fireworks Festival in Tainan. Have patience and brace yourself, as you will not be the only one heading there.
Spring Festival however is so much more than a myriad of events and celebrations. I have soon discovered that it’s the traditions that might be difficult to notice at first sight that make it so distinctive. Be it a mother spending hours of hours in the kitchen preparing the New Year dinner or days spend on playing mahjong and cards. It extends to more family-oriented traditions of paying respect to elders past and present, and spending quality time with loved ones in the sanctity of their homes.
All that is what it makes Spring Festival so exceptional.
Travel like a local
Oh, one more thing I am sure we can all agree on: there is no better way to travel than to travel like a local. To make the best out of your trip to Taiwan, immerse yourself in the culture and experience it like never before by pairing up with the local. Taiwanese are extremely friendly and make great hosts. On daily basis they are very serious about their private space, but on rare occasions such as Spring Festival they let strangers inside their homes and invite them to join them in celebrating. They let me in and the experience was one of a kind. With food being the highlight of the celebrations, I was not only given a chance to eat New Year’s traditional dishes like the glutinous rice cake, fish and dumplings, but was welcomed to the family with opened arms. I have never imagined I could have a family on the other side of the world, even if it only lasted for few yours.
I trust a similar experience would be the highlight of your trip. Seize the opportunity. See the holiday through the eyes of locals, observe the festivities and traditions, be a part of it. Have a unique and memorable experience. If you don’t know anyone in Taiwan just yet, don’t despair. Social travel platforms like FRNCi are here to help you. We understand what your concerns and needs are. We have all been there. So what are you still waiting for? All you have to do is go on the website and find a local to show you around. It doesn’t get easier than that.
Wish you a great stay in Taiwan!
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