The Harbin Ice Festival is held annually from 5th January and lasts for over a month. The city of Harbin, located in the North East of China, has an arctic climate but flights are available from many regional hubs, including Beijing, Shanghai and Taipei. If staying in town, we recommend either the Shangri-La or Sofitel. The festival showcases many ice and snow sculptures, some spectacularly lit. Must-see attractions include the Sun Island Park, the World's largest indoor snow art exhibition; Ice and Snow World, a huge ice architecture park, and Zhaolin Park, showing numerous ice lanterns and sculptures of buildings, animals and folktales. In addition to the icy artworks, many sporting events also take place, such as ice-skating, sledding and skiing at the nearby Yabuli International Ski Resort, the largest ski resort in China.
Marking the end of the 2-week Chinese New Year celebration, Shangyuan Festival (or Lantern Festival) is a colourful time to be in China. The lanterns, which are nearly always bright red to symbolise good luck, are often ornate or shaped as animals. The lanterns can represent one's old self, who is released at the end of one year so that a new sense of self can start the next year. Lantern riddles provide a source of amusement for children and adults - often when solved they offer good fortune, prosperity and love.
Chengdu holds a lantern festival in the Culture Park each year, showing a huge number of elaborate lanterns, such as the Dragon Pole, a large golden dragon, snaking around a 38 metre high pole and spitting fireworks from its mouth.
The Dragon Boat Festival takes place on the 5th day of the 5th Lunar month - in 2015, this will be the 20th June, co-inciding with the summer solstice. Around the country, people celebrate with exciting dragon boat races, eat zonghi (pyramid-shaped glutinous rice with a variety of fillings and wrapped in bamboo leaves) and wear pouches of perfume to protect their children from evil. The winning team in the boat race is said to bring a good harvest and happy life to the people of their village.
The Dragon Boat Festival is a public holiday, thus there will be festivities throughout the country. One of the easiest venues to reach for foreign visitors is Hong Kong, where there a number of races including in Victoria Harbour and Stanley Main Beach. Stay at the Grand Hyatt for great views of Victoria Harbour - the hotel has a great club lounge.
Chinese National Day falls on October 1st each year and celebrates the founding of the People's Republic of China. During the festival, which is celebrated nationwide, a number of government-organised firework displays and concerts can be seen. In addition, public areas are festively decorated and it is common to see pictures of revered figures, such as Chairman Mao, prominently displayed.
In recent years, the festival has been extended to run the course of a week (Golden Week). This was mainly an effort to boost domestic tourism and allow people time to visit family. So, whilst this is an interesting time to visit China, be aware that flights and trains may be busier than normal.