Discover New Year’s Celebrations in Asia30 Dec 2021
The New Year is just around the corner. New Year celebrations provide fascinating insights into local cultures. Although many countries mark the start of the New Year with fireworks, parties and festivals, many other traditions can be observed around the world. Let’s look at a few places in Asia to see how they will celebrate this New Year’s Eve.
Please keep in mind that the Covid-19 pandemic continues to cause disruptions around the world, especially with the latest strain, Omicron. As local situations can change very quickly, we encourage you to check the latest updates before travelling or attending any New Year events and follow local guidelines regarding social distancing and other measures to help prevent the spread of the virus. Please also keep in mind if you are travelling, quarantine and other travel requirements may also change at short notice. Our latest summary of how Covid-19 is impacting countries in the Asia region can be found here. We encourage you to also follow the latest government travel advice of any countries relevant to you.
If you’re looking to party on New Year’s Eve, Hong Kong is the place to be, with everything on offer from New Year’s Eve cruises and New Year’s Parade, to a gigantic countdown clock and live concerts. Hong Kong’s famous New Year’s Eve fireworks over Victoria Harbour were cancelled for the last two years due to Covid-19, however, preparations are underway to once again welcome the New Year with a bang. As well as the return of Hong Kong’s New Year’s Eve fireworks, a brand new New Year Countdown Concert will take place this year. The New Year’s Countdown Concert can be enjoyed live (tickets required) and it will also be live-streamed online and on TV.
The New Year is by far the most important holiday in Japan. Highly symbolic and traditional, it is a time for families to gather together. Celebrations tend to have a quieter, more solemn atmosphere than those in the West. Celebrations extend from New Year’s Eve until January 3. People enjoy a range of traditions, including eating specialty New Year foods such as toshikoshi soba (literally “year-crossing” buckwheat noodles, served on New Year’s Eve to symbolise the cutting off of the year’s misfortunes as well as wishes for good luck and long life), and literally and figuratively ringing out the old year with temples ringing large bells 108 times. Fireworks at the turn of the year on the other hand remain uncommon. As the year winds to an end, New Year’s postcards (nengajo) are sent, and people attend bonenkai (forget the year) parties, clean their houses, and adorn their homes (and businesses) with auspicious decorations to invite good luck for the New Year. The traditions continue into the New Year with people eager to see the first sunrise of the year (hatsuhinode), making their first shrine or temple visit of the year (hatsumode), and of course enjoying New Year sales, including the always popular fukubukuro, or “lucky bags”. If you find yourself in Japan during the New Year, expect almost all businesses to be closed from January 1st to January 3rd and also note that extended train services on New Year’s eve will be reduced compared to the regular year due to Covid-19.
Taiwan’s New Year’s Eve celebration is best known for its unique countdown to midnight. As the countdown enters the final stage, all eyes are on Taipei 101 (a skyscraper that claimed the title of the world’s tallest from its opening in 2004 until 2009 when it was overtaken by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE) as it turns into the world’s biggest New Year’s Eve countdown clock. The building lights up floor by floor from the bottom up. Once the skyscraper is completely lit, the building bursts with a spectacular display of fireworks. The celebrations also include concerts, displays of light installations and art installations. In recent days it has been announced that several New Year’s Eve celebration events will be cancelled in Taiwan including a party to be held on the 89th-floor observatory of Taipei 101, along with several other parties and outdoor marketplace. The Taipei 101 fireworks display along with the City Hall New Year’s Eve concert are still planned to go ahead. Note, in Taiwan, you must wear a face mask at all times in public venues. You may remove your mask in certain situations. Detailed guidelines are available on the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control website. Failure to follow these directions may result in hefty fines.
New Year’s Eve is celebrated with great gusto in Malaysia. There is something for everyone, from extravagant fireworks and street fairs, to live concerts and rooftop parties. Topping the list of attractions are the celebrations at KLCC Park in Kuala Lumpur. Crowds gather to listen to live performances of local and international artists and witness colourful fireworks, with the scenic twin towers in the background. Unfortunately, it seems this year, for the first time, Malaysia will bid farewell to the year without any of the typical fireworks, concerts and countdowns due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. With the standard operating procedures (SOP) still in force and social gatherings banned, people are likely to bid farewell to 2021 at home. Maybe many will take advantage of other events in the region that will be live-streamed, such as the Taipei 101 event mentioned above.
2021 certainly has been another difficult and unpredictable year as Covid-19 continued to throw many challenges our way. There has, however, been much to be thankful for, including the rapid development and rollout of vaccinations against Covid-19. As we close out the old year and prepare for 2022, it’s a good time to reflect on what we can be grateful for as well as focusing on what’s important as we prepare for the New Year.
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