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New year, timeless traditions: Celebrate Lunar New Year with delicious delicacies in these distinguished Asian destinations

As the Lunar New Year approaches, set your sights on Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai for some truly memorable meals and celebrations. | By Paul Oswell | January 6, 2023

Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is China's most prominent fête marking the start of the Chinese lunar calendar. Revelers can observe traditions and dine on dishes that are said to bring about good luck and prosperity. Celebrate with traditional dumplings, truffles or curated baskets filled with all your favorite delicacies and toast to a new year of good health and good food. Here are our top suggestions for the best Lunar New Year festivities to explore on your next Asian adventure:

  • Bountiful Beijing: Dine on a traditional casserole dish said to bring good fortune

  • Sensational Shanghai: Welcome in the new year with decadent rice dumplings and new year cakes

  • Happening Hong Kong: Enjoy spirited celebrations at the largest new year party outside mainland China and indulge in gourmet Lunar New Year puddings


Throughout the bustling Chinese capital of Beijing, you’ll find cultural performances known as temple fairs. The Temple of Heaven – an imperial sacrificial altar and religious building complex – holds solemn celebrations, while the Summer Palace (an imperial garden) has entertainment from the Qing dynasty, with music and puppet shows as well as dancing lions and dragons.

If you’re a fan of traditional Chinese opera, reserve tickets to see the China National Opera at the National Centre for the Performing Arts for an exhilarating evening of music. Further expand your cultural horizons with a private tour of Red Gate Gallery, the city’s first private contemporary art gallery that is situated in a 600-year-old Ming dynasty watchtower.

Gift-giving is a time-honored tradition for Lunar New Year celebrations, and Beijing has no shortage of high-end shopping options. Oriental Plaza in the Dongcheng District occupies an entire city block and is replete with designer names such as Burberry, Givenchy and Valentino.

A few minutes away from the nearby Wangfujing Street pedestrian shopping area, Waldorf Astoria Beijing has enviable gift-buying opportunities on its doorstep. After a day of retail therapy, indulge your senses with some of the city’s finest Cantonese cuisine at Zijin Mansion, the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant. For Lunar New Year, chef James Wang will craft three set dinner menus comprised of well-balanced healthy ingredients. Options include Cantonese-style roasted suckling pig, steamed red spotted grouper with homemade salted lemon and wok-friend lobster with a black truffle sauce. To foreshadow a year of good fortune, the restaurant will also offer poon choi, a festive Chinese casserole with a diverse layering of ingredients made for sharing. Savor Beijing specialties paired with your choice of over 400 wines on offer as chef Wang brings his signature creativity and style to the traditional new year menu.


Lunar New Year celebrations in Shanghai last for weeks, and are a wonderful opportunity to discover local delicacies such as rice dumplings (tangyuan) and new year cakes (nian gao). Some of the most elaborate celebrations are held at the Longhua Temple, where over 100 Buddhist monks climb the pagoda and strike the bell at midnight to ring in the new year. Evocative lantern festivals are also hugely popular in Shanghai, especially the Yu Gardens Lantern Festival in Yu Yuan District, where festivities include lion and dragon dances, riddle games and more. Decorative lanterns, which are typically red to signify good fortune, symbolize people letting go of their past selves in anticipation of a new year.

Continue your culinary tour by entering through the columned grand entrance of Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund. Once home to the renowned Shanghai Club, the property exudes heritage design mixed with modern comfort taking guests on a journey through old and new Shanghai. Signature restaurant Wei Jing Ge serves authentic Shanghainese, Cantonese and Huai Yang cuisine, including shrimp dumplings and steamed pork buns. For Lunar New Year, the restaurant is offering special menus with local favorites such as pan-friend wagyu beef with mushrooms, wok-fried Boston lobster with scallions, fried grouper with vegetables and honey-glazed barbeque pork. Stop by the property's renowned Peacock Alley to take home a Chinese New Year hamper with wine, rice cakes, X.O. sauce, housemade jam, red velvet cookies, olive oil, housemade macaroons and chocolates. Little ones will delight in the cuddly Steiff bear — included in every hamper.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong puts on one of the largest Lunar New Year celebrations outside of mainland China. Highlights include colorful and spirited New Year's Day Street parades, complemented by impressive fireworks displays over Victoria Harbour and the famed Chinese New Year Raceday – Hong Kong’s most popular horse racing event – which takes place on the third day of the celebrations. Scout a spot along Victoria Harbour to watch the International Chinese New Year Carnival (formerly known as the Night Parade), which winds its way along the West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade.

The lion dance is one of the most fascinating and time-honored Lunar New Year traditions and this year the auspicious ritual will be performed in Conrad Hong Kong’s lobby to celebrate the arrival of the Year of the Rabbit. This specially choreographed performance is said to bring good fortune and chase away evil spirits for all who see it.

To experience the epitome of a celebratory treat, visit the hotel’s award-winning Chinese restaurant, Golden Leaf, for specially curated Lunar New Year puddings and turnip cakes – made with Chinese sausages, dried shrimps and Chinese mushrooms – that symbolize wealth and abundance for the new year. Pair these traditional delicacies with Golden Leaf signature X.O. sauce.

Conrad Hong Kong’s festive gift baskets are also on offer, featuring deluxe Chinese New Year specialties, including homemade walnut cookies, and a selection of wines to commemorate your time in Hong Kong.

Lunar New Year is an especially enjoyable time for Chinese communities — a chance to celebrate ancestors, family and friends while wishing them good luck and fortune for the coming year. By joining in the celebrations, you too can experience these traditions — exploring and enjoying these joyously colorful practices delivers a truly transformative and memorable vacation experience.

Paul Oswell is an award-winning travel writer, and has been reporting from all seven continents for over twenty years. He is based in New Orleans and is the author of “The Bucket List North America: 1,000 Adventures Big and Small.”

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