COUNT­DOWN TO THE NEW YEAR

Unique of­fer­ings, dream des­ti­na­tions are top choices for Chi­nese con­sumers this year

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By CHENG SI

As the bell strikes the last minute of this year, peo­ple from all over the world will usher in the new year in a mul­ti­tude of ways with a core em­pha­sis on send­ing cher­ished wishes to near and dear ones.

Chen Lu, a 54-year-old from Guangzhou, South China’s Guang­dong province, is plan­ning to usher in 2019 with his fam­ily at the Harbin Ice and Snow World, an ice and snow tourist and cul­tural theme park in north­east China’s Hei­longjiang province.

“New year hol­i­days were never spe­cial to me ear­lier. It was just a few days with­out work. Even my fam­ily used to look for­ward to the Spring Fes­ti­val hol­i­days. But all of that changed some five years ago and since then we have been cher­ish­ing the rich ex­pe­ri­ences gauged from these hol­i­days.” he said.

“This year we de­cided to go to Harbin as it was my daugh­ter’s sug­ges­tion. I think it will be a to­tally dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence as win­ter and snow gels more with the new year count­down than the sum­mer-like Guangzhou,” he said with a smile. “We are look­ing for­ward to the dawn of Jan 1 with great ex­cite­ment.”

The New Year’s Day, ob­served on Jan 1, is prob­a­bly the world’s most cel­e­brated pub­lic hol­i­day. Un­like the close-knit fam­ily oc­ca­sions that mark Chi­nese fes­ti­vals like Spring Fes­ti­val, there is more fun and frolic as­so­ci­ated with the New Year’s Eve. Ob­serv­ing events such as the fire­works show, danc­ing per­for­mances and count­downs usu­ally go well past the night onto the New Year’s Day. Car­ni­val in snow

The theme park, in North­east China’s Hei­longjiang province with snow scener­ies and ice sculp­tures, will host events on New Year’s Eve to pro­vide vis­i­tors with ev­er­last­ing mem­o­ries, ac­cord­ing to

Xu Bing, mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor of Harbin Ice and Snow World.

Ac­cord­ing to Xu, a rock con­cert and a breath-tak­ing 3D-map­ping show will be held at the park to co­in­cide with the car­ni­val on Dec 31. The cli­max would be a gi­ant bell that would ring in the new year.

The snow world, ac­cord­ing to Xu, was built to wel­come the Mil­len­nium by the lo­cal gov­ern­ment in 1999. “Grand fire­work shows and car­ni­vals were held then for cel­e­bra­tions,” she said. “That was the orig­i­nal form of new year count­down events.

“Harbin is grow­ing into one of the most pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions for tourists en­joy­ing snow scenery and win­ter sports, and we share the re­spon­si­bil­ity to bring more events to mark the new year,” she said. “Last year, we had about 58,000 peo­ple cel­e­brat­ing the new year at the park.”

A count­down party will also be held at the park, ac­cord­ing to a post on its of­fi­cial web­site.

The party, themed on win­ter sports, will in­clude shows per­formed by Rus­sian singer Dima Bi­lan and fig­ure skater Yuliya Lip­nick­aya.

Chen from Guangzhou said: “This is the first time that my fam­ily — my wife and 23-year-old daugh­ter — is wel­com­ing the new year at the beau­ti­ful snow world. It is like a fairy tale and will be mem­o­rable to us.”

The snow world, which opened on Dec 23 this year, has an ad­mis­sion fee of 330 yuan ($50) per visit. Tick­ets for count­down shows at the park are sold for 160 yuan per visit and al­lows vis­i­tors to check in after 10 pm on New Year’s Eve.

Fire­works in Hong Kong

Daz­zling fire­works will light up Hong Kong’s Vic­to­ria Har­bor at mid­night on New Year’s Eve. The dis­play high­lights 45 dif­fer­ent sparklers in the pat­tern of cherry blos­soms, hearts and smi­ley faces in the last minute of the show, ac­cord­ing to a post on the web­site of the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB).

The tourism board said that the 10-minute dis­play will be­gin at 11 pm, with four ses­sions of the fire­work show be­ing ig­nited at an in­ter­val of 15 min­utes to present the au­di­ence a stun­ning show.

Le­ung Lok Man, a 24-year-old na­tive of Hong Kong, still re­mem­ber the first fire­works show she watched by the har­bor side when she was 15 years old.

“I love the at­mos­phere where peo­ple jammed to­gether to wel­come the new year ac­com­pa­nied by the beau­ti­ful fire­works show,” she said. “It was ex­cit­ing and kind of like the ‘ball drop’ at the New York.”

The count­down fire­work show, with an es­ti­mated cost of $1.8 mil­lion is free for vis­i­tors and set to draw an au­di­ence of over 350,000 peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to Sing Tao Daily, a Chi­nese news­pa­per in Hong Kong.

Di­ver­si­fied events ex­cept for the fire­works dis­play will also be held in Hong Kong to mark the ar­rival of 2019, ac­cord­ing to the re­gion’s tourism board.

Xu Haiyan, who moved to Hong Kong in 2012, said that she was im­pressed with the fes­tive at­mos­phere in the city.

“I worked in Shang­hai for eight years after my grad­u­a­tion. Though the lo­cal gov­ern­ment did or­ga­nize some events in iconic places like The Bund, it is rather dif­fer­ent in Hong Kong as you can join the cel­e­bra­tions ev­ery­where, even at a park that is just 10 min­utes away from my home,” she said.

The 40-year-old said that, “There are some stands sell­ing tra­di­tional Chi­nese ar­ti­facts such as pa­per-cut­tings and paint­ings made from melt­ing sugar, which are re­ally fas­ci­nat­ing.”

TV count­down shows

Un­like Xu Haiyan, who plans to take her two lit­tle daugh­ters to join cel­e­bra­tory events at a park near her home in Hong Kong, Liu Wei, a 25-year-old from Bei­jing, wishes to spend new year’s eve watch­ing an on­line cel­e­bra­tion party.

“Win­ter in Bei­jing is freez­ing,” he said, laugh­ing. “I pre­fer to stay at home watch­ing the show on­line with my friends. We have mul­ti­ple choices of en­ter­tain­ment as sev­eral provin­cial-level tele­vi­sion sta­tions are broad­cast­ing new year shows live on­line.”

Hu Yuan, project man­ager with Hu­nan TV’s count­down show said that the show is like a singing and danc­ing gala that keeps the au­di­ence in­volved in the new year cel­e­bra­tions.

Hu­nan TV’s count­down show was the most viewed TV pro­gram last year with about 140 mil­lion peo­ple watch­ing the show when pop­u­lar singer Wang Li­hong per­formed on the stage.

Hu said the count­down show, first launched in 2005, is un­like the cel­e­bra­tions as­so­ci­ated with the tra­di­tional Spring Fes­ti­val.

“Most of the Lu­nar New Year shows stress on tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture and fam­ily-ori­ented ac­tiv­i­ties, while the Dec 31 count­down show is more like a mod­ern mu­sic con­cert for the younger gen­er­a­tion. We also look to cre­ate more in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ences for the on­line and off­line au­di­ences, through the mu­sic car­ni­val.”

In ad­di­tion to Hu­nan TV, the State-owned China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion and provin­cial TV sta­tions such as Jiangsu, An­hui and Zhe­jiang will also broad­cast their count­down shows live.

Di­ver­si­fied per­for­mances

Di­ver­si­fied count­down shows and cel­e­bra­tions will also be held in cities such as Bei­jing and Xi’an — cap­i­tal of north­west China’s Shaanxi province.

A count­down cer­e­mony fea­tur­ing win­ter sports and tourism pro­mo­tion will be open to the gen­eral pub­lic on New Year’s Eve at the Olympic Square, ac­cord­ing to the Bei­jing Cul­ture and Tourism Bureau.

Xi’an, a city with a 2,000-year his­tory, in Shaanxi province, will host a bless­ing/prayer cer­e­mony at its iconic Big Wild Goose Pagoda, a Bud­dhist pagoda built in the Tang Dy­nasty (618-907) pe­riod on New Year’s Eve.

Cof­fee fes­ti­vals and mu­sic shows fea­tur­ing tra­di­tional Chi­nese in­stru­ments and mod­ern West­ern in­stru­ments will also be held in the city dur­ing the New Year’s Day hol­i­day, ac­cord­ing to the city’s Qu­jiang New Dis­trict Man­age­ment Com­mit­tee.

Apart from ring­ing in the new year at pop­u­lar do­mes­tic des­ti­na­tions, sev­eral Chi­nese peo­ple are now choos­ing to cel­e­brate the same at over­seas des­ti­na­tions, with that pro­por­tion steadily in­creas­ing, said a re­port from Ctrip, an on­line travel ser­vice provider.

The on­line travel agency said that Prague in Czech Re­pub­lic, Mel­bourne in Aus­tralia and Los An­ge­les in the United States were the three most pop­u­lar New Year des­ti­na­tions for Chi­nese trav­el­ers this year.

Lv­mama, an­other on­line travel agency, said that Aus­tralia in the south­ern hemi­sphere has at­tracted more Chi­nese vis­i­tors due to the warmer cli­mate.

Zhao Xicheng, a 28-year-old em­ployee in a fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion, plans to spend the last day of 2018 in Aus­tralia.

“I will join the count­down show in Syd­ney along with the fire­works show near the har­bor. Syd­ney will be one of the first des­ti­na­tions in the world to ring in the new year and I want to be part of the bon­homie and revelry,” he said.

WANG XI / XIN­HUA

Fire­works ex­plode over Vic­to­ria Har­bour dur­ing New Year cel­e­bra­tions in Hong Kong on Jan­uary 1, 2018.

WANG JIANWEI / XIN­HUA

Tourists visit the Harbin Ice and Snow World, a theme park in north­east China’s Hei­longjiang province, in De­cem­ber.

CHEN QIANGHUA / FOR CHINA DAILY

Hosts and guests gather at Hu­nan TV’s count­down show in Shen­zhen on Dec 31, 2016.

PHOTO BY BROOK MITCHELL / GETTY IM­AGES

The Smok­ing Cer­e­mony takes place as part of the Wel­come to the Coun­try on New Year’s Eve on Dec 31, 2017 in Syd­ney, Aus­tralia.

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