What To Do During Chinese New Year In Shanghai (2021)?
For 2021, Chinese New Year falls on the 12th February and Spring Festival (春节 chūnjié) celebrations last until the 15th day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar which is the Lantern Festival (元宵节 yuánxiāo jié). In 2021 the Lantern Festival is on the 26th February.
Chinese National Holidays for Chinese New Year is from the 11th – 17th February, so anyone working in Shanghai should have plenty of time off to go and do some New Year activities!
CNY in Shanghai – Yu Garden Lantern Festival
CNY in Shanghai – Longhua Temple Celebration
CNY in Shanghai – Guyi Garden Spring Festival Fair
CNY in Shanghai – Visit Disneyland Shanghai
CNY in Shanghai – Try Some Traditional New Year Food
Chinese New Year in Shanghai – Yu Garden Lantern Festival
This is definitely the number one place to visit in Shanghai during Chinese New Year.
The garden is transformed by various colourful displays of beautiful lanterns which are illuminated.
Each year there is a different theme, but one theme will always focus on the Chinese zodiac for that year, with 2021 being the Year of the Ox.
Other displays often include China’s achievements over the previous year as well as smaller lantern displays with New Year wishes for onlookers.
To really appreciate the full beauty of the lantern display you must make sure to visit at night when everything is illuminated.
The display normally starts shortly before Chinese New Year and then lasts for about 30 days.
Entrance to Yu Garden is free except for the days surrounding the Lantern Festival when there is normally a 50 CNY charge.
On the actual day of the Lantern Festival (26th February 2021) the entrance fee is normally 80 CNY.
The Gardens of Shanghai 🌳 Yuyuan Garden 豫园
Yu Garden – Are you looking for a place to relax? Maybe somewhere scenic, with historic buildings? Yu Garden is just the place you want to go.
Chinese New Year in Shanghai – Longhua Temple Celebration
During Chinese New Year there are many different temple fairs and temple celebrations in Shanghai.
However, the one at Longhua Temple has to be the most elaborate temple celebrations in all of Shanghai.
Longhua Temple is the oldest temple in Shanghai, dating all the way back to 242 AD. This gives it the honour of being the only temple in Shanghai to host an annual bell ringing event to mark the beginning of a new year.
Every year 108 Buddhist Monks are invited to climb the pagoda in the temple and strike the bell at midnight to start the new year.
The striking of the bell is a long standing tradition to mark the new year and also to ward off any evil spirits.
Be warned that the bell striking ceremony is extremely popular so be prepared for large crowds and very little personal space!
If you want to visit when things are little quieter in the days following Chinese New Year there are various other activities as part of the Longhua Temple Fair (庙会).
Festivities at the fair include food stalls, street vendors and other traditional ceremonies and performances.
Chinese New Year in Shanghai – Guyi Garden Spring Festival Fair
Another must visit Temple Fair is the one held annually at Guyi Garden.
This classical garden in Shanghai is a great place to visit all year round, but during Chinese New Year is an especially good time.
Here you can enjoy lots of Chinese New Year entertainment such as dragon/lion dances, shadow plays, parades and much more!
There are also various food stalls around and other vendors selling local handicrafts.
The garden will also be decorated with inspiration from the Lunar New Year so you can expect to see lots of lanterns, Chinese zodiac decorations and New Year greetings.
You may also be lucky enough to spot some early blooming spring flowers such as plum blossoms, so be sure to keep an eye out for those!
Chinese New Year in Shanghai – Visit Disneyland Shanghai
Moving on from your more traditional Chinese New Year activities, Shanghai has more of an unusual offering in the form of a visit to Shanghai Disneyland.
Yes, since the park opened in 2016 they have been holding special yearly events to mark the Lunar New Year.
For 2021 “A Spring Festival Spectacular” will be held from 19th January to 26th February to celebrate the Year of the Ox.
The New Year celebration includes traditional decorations, themed costumes and merchandise and even some new shows.
In honour of the Year of the Ox Clarabelle Cow will be making her debut appearance at Disneyland Shanghai, greeting guests and posing for photos.
Whether you have small children or not, this is bound to be a very fun and unique time to visit Shanghai Disneyland, but just make sure to book in advance!
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Chinese New Year in Shanghai – Try Some Traditional New Year Food
Everyone should be aware that food is one of, if not the most, important part of Chinese New Year and in Shanghai this is no exception.
At the table of almost every Shanghai family’s reunion dinner (团圆饭 tuányuán fàn) you will find several of these six lucky Shanghainese dishes:
New Year Cake (年糕 niángāo)
This cake is made from glutinous rice and is very popular to eat during Chinese New Year, especially in Shanghai, although it can also be eaten all year round.
Another name for the cake is 黏糕 niángāo which literally means “sticky cake”.
It is considered good luck to eat it during the Lunar New Year because it’s name niángāo is a homonym for “higher year” (年高). This means eating it symbolises self improvement it will help raise you up taller in the coming year.
The traditional New Year cake is round in shape and decorated with an auspicious character such as prosperity (福 fú).
Tangyuan 汤圆 tāngyuán
Tangyuan are ball shaped dumplings made from glutinous rice flour which are served in boiling water.
In Shanghai they are often called 汤团 tāngtuán in the local dialect.
The 圆 or the 团 are a homophone for “union” (团圆 tuányuán) so they are eaten during New Year to represent family togetherness.
The dumplings can be either large or small and can be filled or unfilled. The fillings vary a lot with southern people generally preferring sweet fillings such as sugar, sesame or red bean paste.
In contrast northern people generally prefer savoury fillings such as minced meat and vegetables. However, in Shanghai both sweet and savoury are eaten.
Eight-treasure Rice 八宝饭 bābǎofàn
Eight-treasure rice is a must have dessert for Shanghai families and is traditionally served as the last course for the Chinese New Year dinner.
As eight is a lucky number in Chinese and 宝 literally means treasure, this dessert embodies all kinds of luck.
The dessert is made from glutinous rice which is steamed and mixed with sugar, lard and eight kinds of fruits and nuts (hence the name). Some typical ingredients are lotus seeds, raisins, dates, peanuts etc.
Each ingredient has a specific meaning for example lotus seeds represent a harmonious married life.
Shanghai Smoked Fish 上海熏鱼 shànghǎi xūn yú
Despite what the name suggests this dish isn’t smoked fish in the usual sense, the “smoking” part actually refers to the sauce.
This is a typical Shanghainese cold dish which although enjoyed all year round, is a must have appetiser for Chinese New Year in Shanghai.
The fish is cut into small pieces, marinated and fried then it is soaked in a sauce flavoured by soy sauce, sugar, spices and other condiments.
A fish dish is always a must have at new year because fish(鱼 yú) is a homonym for 余 (yú) which means surplus.
So by having fish every year it sounds like the auspicious Chinese saying 年年有余 (nián nián yǒuyú), which means to have abundance year after year.
As You Wish Vegetables 如意菜 rúyì cài
The ingredients for “as you wish vegetables” can vary widely across China, however soybean sprouts are always a must.
In Shanghai this dish is usually made with soybean sprouts and tatsoi or Shanghai bok choy.
As well as 如意 rúyì meaning as one wishes, it can also refer to an S-shaped ornamental object that is a symbol of good luck, it looks similar in shape to a soybean sprout which is why these feature in the dish.
Tatsoi 塌棵菜 tākēcài
Tatsoi is a seasonal vegetable that is grown in the area around Shanghai during the winter.
It is very popular to eat during Chinese New Year and you’ll be able to see it in all the markets during this time.
For a Chinese New Year dish tatsoi is most often fried with bamboo shoots. In Shanghainese dialect the name for tatsoi sounds like 脱苦菜 tuō kǔ cài which brings to mind the phrase 脱离苦海 tuōlí kǔhǎi which means to “get out the bitter sea”.
Frying tatsoi with bamboo shoots represents driving away bitterness and and gradually growing, like bamboo.
Want to learn more, check out our blog on Chinese New Year vocab.
Chinese New Year in Shanghai – FAQs
What is there to do in Shanghai for Chinese New Year?
In Shanghai for Chinese New Year there are plenty of things to do, some of the best things are going to the Yu Garden Lantern Festival, the Longhua Temple Fair or the Guyi Garden Spring Festival Celebration.
When is Chinese New Year 2021?
Chinese New Year is Friday 12th February.
The official holiday lasts 7 days which is February 11th-17th.
How do you say Happy New Year in Chinese?
Happy New Year in Chinese is 新年快乐 xīnnián kuàilè.
Where do Chinese go for Chinese New Year?
During Chinese New Year it is traditional for people to go back to their hometown and spend it with their family.
In fact Spring Festival Migration is one of the biggest in the world.
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