What Do the Taiwanese Do for New Year?
Are you ready for the New Year’s Eve countdown parties? What’s your plan after that? New Year’s celebrations are widely observed in the world and Taiwan is no exception. We, however, most expect the Lunar New Year’s holiday and that’s always the longest vacation we can get after a hard-working year! The so-called “spring festival” pretty much fits in the Lunar New Year or can be an equivalent of that public holiday, which generally lasts six to nine days according to the lunar calendar.
Honestly speaking, the Gregorian calendar New Year is more of a commercial season for domestic and international tourists, and, loosely speaking, the Lunar New Year, aka Chinese New Year, which is especially noted among the communities of ethnic Chinese, is an important time for family members to get together and to indulge themselves in good food.
Taipei 101 Firework Show
When it comes to the ubiquitous countdown fireworks, Taipei 101’s New Year’s Eve Fireworks display must be one of the most gorgeous events on Earth. Still the tallest building in the country, Taipei 101 is not only a beautifully-designed skyscraper but one of the prominent landmarks in the capital of Taiwan, too.
Together with other classic landmarks, you can actually book a tour from Edison Tours as the appetizer of your holiday in Taiwan if you’re sort of in a hurry. If you’re planning to come here at the end of 2022, you might take into consideration the Christmasland in New Taipei City before being stunned by the 6-minute-long fireworks of Taipei 101.
Nationwide Countdown Parties
As the capital city of the nation, Taipei City has the most notable New Year’s Eve Countdown Party, which is usually held in Taipei City Hall Square and is dubbed as one of the most fabulous activities you can join after drafting your New Year’s resolutions. This annual event continually highlights the most popular pop stars compared to the other New Year parties in the country, let alone its proximity to Taipei 101 – only one block away! It is estimated that there were always around half a million visitors flocking to that area on December 31 before the pandemic. If your vacation in Taiwan spans from Christmas to New Year’s Day, don’t forget to join the revelers to mark the end of this stressful 2022.
What to Do in the Lunar New Year?
The ethnic Chinese follow the moon cycles and call their calendar “lunar” calendar like many other cultures on the globe. Scientifically speaking, their calendar is indeed lunisolar – i.e. a mixture of lunar and solar calendar systems. In 2023, the first day of the lunar month will fall on January 22, which is only three weeks away from New Year’s Day. For us Taiwanese, the following January will be a festive month like December if you celebrate Christmas in your country.
Taipei is certainly a good destination to expose yourself to a more authentic Chinese vibe in terms of Lunar New Year’s cultural experiences if you don’t have a Taiwanese friend to take you to his or her grandparents’ place. First of all, you shouldn’t miss Dihua Street’s new year market. Normally a month before the spring festival arrives, this one-kilometer-long old street will be blocked only for shoppers and tourists alike. You’ll find not only delightful snacks and colorful sweets but also a variety of dry goods and herbal medicine while browsing through the side-by-side vendors and stalls.
Surrounding the Taipei Xia-Hai City God Temple—the religious center of the old prime business district, which is known as Dadaocheng in Taipei—you can also find lots of really good street foods favored by many senior Taipei gourmets.
Once one of the main trading ports in Taipei, Twatutia (a transliteration of Taiwanese Hokkien of Dadaocheng) boasts both its traditions and the vintage architectural façade of hundreds of shophouses. You can find this free afternoon walking tour offered by Edison Travel Service. There are only four opportunities (Jan. 7, 8, 13, 14). Check it out ASAP!
Beitou and Yangmingshan National Park
When traveling, do you prefer to visit historical sites or unwind in nature? Taipei is definitely not far away from nature, with its highest point being Mt. Qixing, 1120 meters above sea level, in the Yangmingshan National Park. Used to be known as Grass Mountain before 1950, the national park was awarded the world’s first Urban Quiet Park on World Environment Day 2020 and is the only one featuring post-volcanic activities among a total of nine national parks in Taiwan.
With an easy access to hot springs, Beitou is surely a doorstep to the national park’s abundant natural resources. Within walking distance, you can stop at the Instagrammable Taipei Public Library Beitou Branch—an ark-like amazing wooden structure and the first green building in Taipei—and the magnificent Tudor-style Hot Spring Museum, which used to be the largest public bathhouse in East Asia.
The walking tour wouldn’t be complete without checking out the misty Thermal Valley, which is about 300 meters away from the museum and is the origin of the place name Beitou, namely “witch”!
The above-mentioned area is basically noted as Beitou Hot Spring Park, which is to the south of the Yangmingshan National Park borders. The national park is not that small and you couldn’t force yourself to hike all the way up to the highest point of Taipei City, could you? The best way to tour around within a short period is definitely to sign up for the Beitou and Yangmingshan Day Tour before you decide to make it to the top of Taipei’s iconic “Seven Star Mountain”, another name for Mt. Qixing.
Not As Empty As Before
When I was a kid, I extremely enjoyed the empty streets during the Chinese New Year holiday. My cousins, neighbors, and I would run, light firecrackers, and have fun on the streets because there was barely any traffic. The parents didn’t even need to worry about their kids for the reason that most Taipei residents would go back to their hometown throughout the nation because the capital is nothing but a land of dreams.
But now, nearly all of them have settled down here and call Taipei home. So, it would be like suicide now if you run about on the roads during the Lunar New Year season. The good news is that, as a foreign visitor, you’ll find a plethora of restaurants, malls, shops, etc. are still open most of the time. Some of them might choose to close for a while on Lunar New Year’s Eve and the first day of the lunar month. No big deal, right? Taipei is, without a doubt, an ideal destination if you want to feel the New Year’s atmosphere, to see a bit of Chinese traditions, as well as to have fun in a metropolitan city like Tokyo, New York, Singapore, and so on.
Taipei New Year’s Eve Party starts at 7 p.m. and ends at 1 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2023!
Free of charge for all public events. The museum I mentioned in Beitou is free, too!
How to get there?
All the scenic spots and events I mentioned in the article are accessible by Metro Taipei, the city’s subway system, except Yangmingshan National Park, which is served by nearly two dozen bus services.
Useful Tips While Visiting
How’s the temperature?
You’re coming here for the Gregorian New Year or Chinese New Year, right? Both of the holidays fall in winter time and the heat won’t be an issue. You might be thinking Taiwan is in the subtropical region and opt to leave your down jacket at home. If you’re coming to Taipei directly, don’t forget the high humidity in the north of the country. Every time the cold front (air mass) hits Taiwan, the mercury can drop below 15 degrees Celsius. My Yankee friends once said it’s freezing in the winter of Taipei, let alone if you plan to go visit the higher Yangmingshan National Park.
How can I get food?
If you’re visiting downtown Taipei, there shouldn’t be any problem. If you plan to join the New Year’s Eve countdown party, better to grab something to eat before you dive headfirst into the crowd. You wouldn’t want to come out (or, you “couldn’t”) when you feel hungry during the concert.
Every December 31, Metro Taipei operates a 42-hour nonstop service from 6 a.m. to midnight on Jan. 1 in the new year. Passengers are advised to alight at the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall or Xinyi Anhe stations on that day, i.e., one or two or more stops away from the final destination of Taipei City Hall or Taipei 101 MRT stations.
If you just want to see the fireworks of Taipei 101 and don’t possess the knowledge of dealing with the crowd, Elephant Mountain would be an excellent choice for you to stay away from the crazy city center and breathe in some nice fresh air in nature. This little hill brags a perfect vista overlooking the Taipei 101 area and is a short walking distance from a nearby MRT station named Xiangshan on the red line. It might be a little scary as soon as you see the trailhead because there seems to have endless stairs. It won’t take long, however, to get to the first viewing platform. You’ll find it worth the try!