Lunar New Year is the most important annual festival in East Asia. According to Chinese and Vietnamese cultural traditions, most people are expected to return to their hometowns for celebrations, causing a surge in demand for transport. Fireworks are set off in hopes to warn off monsters and bad luck. Food offerings are made, and fake money is burned to bring fortune and good luck for ancestors in the afterlife. Lunar New Year widely observed throughout Chinese and Vietnamese communities worldwide, along with North and South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, and, to a lesser extent, Thailand, Brunei, and the Philippines.
In 2020, Lunar New year falls on Jan. 25. Hundreds of millions of people will travel throughout East Asia and in parts of Southeast Asia during the Lunar New Year holiday season, prompting transport and business disruptions that can stretch days before and after the holiday. Many businesses will close for holiday observances. The Lunar New Year celebration ends with the Lantern Festival, which occurs on the first full moon of the new year.
Security Measures to Note for the Lunar New Year
Some cities have banned fireworks or imposed restrictions because of safety reasons or air pollution concerns, so make sure to check before lighting them. You may be able to hear firecrackers last three nights or longer during the Lunar New Year celebrations.
Petty crime tends to increase before and during the Lunar New Year holiday. Regional police offices will likely increase patrols; deploy additional personnel, especially around transport hubs; and coordinate with malls, banks, hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues to boost security in major cities. Observe commonsense precautions to secure money and valuables and confirm business appointments during the holiday period.
Travel Tips for the Lunar New Year
The most important aspect of the Lunar New Year is that families reconnect for dinner on the holiday. People working in larger cities generally commute back to parents’ homes in rural areas. In Chinese communities, this practice is called “chunyun (春运), or Spring Migration” and hundreds of millions of people travel throughout China during the holiday. Subway systems are crowded on a normal day in East Asia, so leave ample time if traveling during the holiday period. The earliest you can buy a train ticket is 60 days in advance, and it’s a rush (and sometimes a fight) to get your ticket secured. Airlines and railways have added additional services to meet the high demand, though overbooking may be a problem.
Private vehicle use will spike dramatically during the Lunar New Year, typically resulting in significant congestion on national highways, as well as a sharp increase in accidents. The high volume of passengers also routinely affects rail, bus, and airline networks. As heavy traffic is likely on main highways, drive defensively and consider minimizing unnecessary driving on the days before and after the public observance of the holiday.
Authorities in and around Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province have suspended all outbound travel as a precaution due to fears over the spread of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which is believed to have originated in the area. Further travel restrictions are possible in other parts of central China in the coming days. Any such restrictions may further complicate Lunar New Year travel. Additionally, Chinese authorities have canceled many prominent Lunar New Year celebratory events in public venues throughout the country as a precaution. Stay informed on travel around China with our intelligence alert hub.
Safety Precautions When Participating in Large-scale Events
Make sure to check all travel advisories. Poor weather and bouts of heavy air pollution, which are common in northern China and other parts of Northeast Asia during the winter months, could intensify disruptions. Read the CDC’s tips for traveling during the Lunar New Year.
Learn what’s going on politically in the region you are traveling to. If there are any specific threats, consider rearranging your travel plans. As of early January, there are no known, specific terror threats to Lunar New Year celebrations; however, it is always a good idea to look at our guidelines to protect yourself against terrorism.
While the Lunar New Year is generally not associated with disruptive protests, such occurrences can never be fully ruled out. To protect yourself against civil unrest, avoid all demonstrations or other civil disturbances; leave the area immediately if caught in an impromptu assembly. Seek immediate shelter from violent situations; hotels, large restaurants, museums, and police stations are generally good places to take refuge.
For more information, check out our tips for how to increase personal security while traveling.
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