Lunar New Year Around the World: A Student’s Guide to Festive Exploration

By: Miriam Bribiesca

Ready to mix things up this Lunar New Year? Great, us too! It’s time to ditch the usual routine and head out for some real adventure. We’ve scoured the globe and the internet to find you not only the best flight deals, but also incredible spots where you can ring in the Lunar New Year. Think vibrant festivals, crazy-good food, and enough picturesque moments to keep your feed lit for days. And with Singapore Airlines, you’re guaranteed an even more enriching experience, from the heart of Asia to our backyard in the U.S., we’ve got you covered.

But first, a quick history lesson! Because let’s be honest, knowing your past means appreciating your present. The Lunar New Year, also known as Spring Festival in China, dates back thousands of years. It is rooted in ancient Chinese mythology, and customs can be traced back to the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC). It was initially a ceremonial day to pray to gods for a good planting and harvest season and to honor ancestors. Although from what we hear, legend has it that this holiday started as a way to fight off a mythical beast called Nian, who feared loud noises and the color red – hence all the fireworks and red decorations.

Each year is linked to one of the twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac, and people take their zodiac year seriously (like, “This is my year!” kind of seriously). The festival is huge on family reunions. Think Thanksgiving, but on a grander scale. Similar to Thanksgiving, everyone travels home in what’s dubbed the world’s largest annual human migration – yeah, it’s a big deal. There’s a ton of food (because what’s a celebration without a feast?), and dumplings are the stars of the show, which symbolize wealth and prosperity. And, of course, there are red envelopes (hongbao) with cash, symbolizing good luck and protection from evil spirits.

Now that you’ve taken a crash course on the rich history of the Lunar New Year, let’s dive into these four unique places to kick off the Lunar New Year with a bang!

Lunar New Year decorations at a bustling market in Vietnam, showcasing red lanterns and cultural ornaments, a potential travel destination for students seeking cultural experiences.


Starting off strong with the motherland, the Lunar New Year in Beijing is a cultural immersion like no other. You’ll witness traditions that have been passed down for generations. From the iconic temple fairs with their lively performances and traditional crafts, to the breathtaking lion and dragon dances that cannot be missed.

We genuinely mean it when we say Beijing is a living museum, and the city’s deep historical roots are fully displayed during the Lunar New Year. Just imagine exploring the Forbidden City or taking a stroll along the Great Wall with the backdrop of vibrant New Year decorations. Wow!

As a college student, we know staying within your budget is important. Luckily for you, Beijing is surprisingly wallet-friendly during the Lunar New Year. In fact, many festivals and cultural events are free or cost minimal. We recommend visiting temple fairs like the one at Ditan Park or the Temple of Heaven. You’ll enjoy traditional performances and handicraft displays and sample local street food like steamed buns or fried sauce noodles there. Yum!

Lunar New Year lion dance performance, a cultural event for student travelers exploring traditional festivities in Asia.


Singapore’s unique blend of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Eurasian cultures makes the Lunar New Year celebrations here truly unforgettable. As a college student, you’ll witness traditional Chinese customs and how they intertwine with other cultural influences, offering a broader perspective on Asian traditions.

While there, it is a must to visit Chinatown, where you can marvel at stunningly lit streets and lanterns and watch traditional lion dances and drum performances. Talk about a spectacle! And if you are someone who loves to take things back with you, stopping by the markets will leave you with your hands full of souvenirs and other unique decorations.

When it comes to food, you can explore famous hawker centers like Lau Pa Sat for an affordable culinary journey. Try festive specialties and year-round favorites like Hainanese chicken rice. Ooof, our mouth is already watering!

Traditional Lunar New Year feast setup with vibrant decorations, perfect for students exploring cultural festivities abroad.

San Francisco

Did you know that San Francisco’s Lunar New Year celebration is one of the largest outside Asia? Yep! So, suppose you’ve never been to one of America’s most iconic cities. What better way to check it off your list than by immersing yourself in Chinese traditions in a city known for its diversity and inclusivity?

The highlight here is attending the Grand Parade, a spectacular event featuring elaborate floats, lion dancers, and even a 268-foot-long Golden Dragon. We also recommend visiting Union Square, where you can find live performances and fun activities all weekend long.

Now, there’s a reason San Francisco’s Chinatown is famous, and while some of that is partially based on being one of the oldest in North America, another main reason is for its food. No trip is complete without indulging in local eats, which is why we recommend visiting the Golden Gate Bakery and getting some egg tarts or to-go dim sum from Good Mong Kok Bakery.

Magical night sky filled with glowing lanterns during a Lantern Festival, a must-see for students traveling during Lunar New Year.


Similar to China, Taipei is a city where ancient temples coexist with bustling night markets and modern skyscrapers; all these factors combine to create a unique environment to explore during the Lunar New Year.

While there, participate in the famous Pingxi Lantern Festival, where you can write wishes on lanterns and release them into the night sky, creating a breathtaking sight. Just like those magical scenes in the movies! The best part is that this tradition symbolizes the release of troubles and the welcoming of good fortune. Talk about making 2024 your best year yet!

Of course, you must explore popular night markets like Shilin and Raohe for an array of street food, from yummy tofu dishes to bubble tea. These markets are a feast for the senses and wallet-friendly; just make sure you bring cash, as paying with a card is not always possible.

And that’s our ultimate guide to a memorable Lunar New Year. Whether you find yourself lighting up lanterns in Taipei or jamming through the streets of Beijing, each of these spots is a winner for an unforgettable start to the year. Before packing, let us help you check off one of the most essential items—securing your journey with exceptional Singapore Airlines student flight deals. All booked? It’s time to head out and make this year your most memorable yet!

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