COUNTDOWN TO THE NEW YEAR
Unique offerings, dream destinations are top choices for Chinese consumers this year
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 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.
Fireworks explode over Victoria Harbour during New Year celebrations in Hong Kong on January 1, 2018.
Tourists visit the Harbin Ice and Snow World, a theme park in northeast China’s Heilongjiang province, in December.
Hosts and guests gather at Hunan TV’s countdown show in Shenzhen on Dec 31, 2016.
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.