Chinese New Year in France & on the French Riviera

Chinese New Year, often referred to as the Spring Festival, is a major traditional holiday for most Chinese people around the world. Festive spirit is at a peak and celebrations call for the sharing of good food, family reunions and the observance of many traditions steeped in themes of good fortune, wealth and happiness.

In 2016, it is the Year of the Monkey (Red Fire Monkey) and celebrations mostly start on 08 February.

Practise how to wish a ‘Happy Chinese New Year (Gong Xi Fa Cai)’ here:


The Legend of Nian

One of the most popular legends about the origins of Chinese New Year, dates back to the Shang (Yin) Dynasty (1558 – 1046- BC) that succeeded the Xia Dynasty.

Chinese mythology describes Shang Zhou Xin (Di Xin) the last King of the dynasty causing disruption to the alignment of the planets, blocking highways with thorns and abandoning all state ruling in favour of parties and corruption. During this period, ghouls cried in the night and the festival used to be observed to fight against the monster ‘Nian’ who liked to terrorise villagers at night.

Over many years, villagers realised the monster was afraid of red colour, fire and loud sound. Therefore, people decorated their houses in red, set fires in the street, placed lanterns from their doorways and set off firecrackers to expel it.


The Lunar Calendar

Chinese New Year depends on the lunar calendar (the cycle of the moon) so it is not the same as Western New Year that falls on 01 January.

The exact date changes every year, but it usually falls on a day between 21 January to 20 February in the Gregorian calendar.

The lunar calendar signifies the change of time each year by representation of animal signs – better known as the Chinese zodiac.


There are twelve animals that repeat every twelve years; 2016 represents the ninth animal of the Chinese zodiac, the Monkey (see below):


Year Date Holiday Zodiac Sign
2016 February 8 February 7 – 13 Monkey
2017 January 28 January 27 – February 2 Rooster
2018 February 16 February 15 – 21 Dog
2019 February 5 February 4 – 6 Pig
2020 January 25 January 24 – 30 Rat


2016 Year of the Monkey

The Year of the Monkey or Year of the Red Fire Monkey signifies joy, creativity and passion.

Years of the Monkey: 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028, 2040, 2052


People matched to this zodiac are considered as lively, versatile and intelligent, especially in their career and wealth.

The Monkey is considered to be a clever animal, good at problem solving, and youthful by nature.

Strengths: enthusiastic, confident, sociable, innovative, a problem solver

Weaknesses: egotistical, jealous, suspicious, manipulative, selfish

Want to find what your Chinese zodiac sign is? Scan this QR code below to visit Travel Chinas guide:


Gift gifting during Chinese New Year

It is popular to give gifts during the Chinese New Year celebrations, though be wary as gifts have strong symbolism attached to them. Often, people give red envelopes with money inside.

Some well-considered gifts are liquor, cigarettes, tea, fruits, healthcare products and red envelopes.

Gifts to avoid include umbrellas, clocks, shoes, sharp objects or chrysanthemums.


Food at Chinese New Year

Certain dishes are eaten at Chinese New Year for their symbolic meaning, and is a great opportunity to try traditional foods including glutinous rice cake (niangao), rice balls (tang yuan), dumplings, and spring rolls.


It is also considered good luck to display oranges and tangerines because of their roundness and ‘golden’ colour, and the Chinese word for orange sounds the same as the Chinese word for ‘success’.

If you want to try something different during Chinese New Year, local company Easy Asia Thai & Sushi School in Antibes offer 3 hour private Asian cooking courses so if you’ve ever wanted to try making spring rolls, pad Thai or sushi get in touch with them.  They provide all ingredients (Rice, sushi grade salmon, prawns, vegetables, Nori sheets etc…) with all necessary utensils (Rice cookers, rolling mats, cling film). As an example, a private course would include ingredients for around 80 pieces of sushi (enough to feed 4 to 6 people). They are offering a Chinese New Year special where you can book one of their private courses for €150 instead of €180. Visit them on Facebook:

Chinese New Year in France

Chinese New Year is celebrated across France, most notably in Paris in the 3 districts with large Chinese communities – the 13th arrondissement, Belleville and the Marais.

Chinese New Year Celebration

The round up of 2016 Parisian celebrations is:

Wednesday 10 February at 4.30pm =  lion dance and martial arts demonstrations in the Paris 11e in the parvis of the Mairie

Saturday 13 February at 2pm = Parade in the Marais (3e and 4e) leaves from Place de la République then following rue du Temple, rue de Bretagne, rue de Turbigo and rue Beaubourg.

Sunday 14 February from 1pm = The celebration in the 13th arrondissement is the largest Chinese New Year festival in France with lion and dragon dances, food stalls and fireworks and it is attended by thousands of locals as well as Chinese, Vietnamese and Cambodian families. The parade follows the route: avenue d’Ivry, avenue de Choisy, place d’Italie, avenue d’Italie, rue de Tolbiac, avenue de Choisy, boulevard Masséna and avenue d’Ivry.


Other French cities:

On Saturday 06 February, the city of Nancy is hosting a festival in the Grand Salons Hotel de Ville from 11am – 6pm. Look for dragon dances, Chinese food stalls, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners, calligraphy workshops and more. The dragon parade leaves Place Charles III at 1.45pm.


The city of Brest, is hosting origami workshops for kids, tea drinking ceremonies, and a Chinese buffet on Saturday 06 February.

Sunday 07 February sees a full day of celebrations in Sens including a lion dance, martial arts demonstrations, arts and craft workshops and food stalls.

For anyone in the Alsace region, Sunday is also the main festivities in Mulhouse from 10am – 7pm; head along for Chinese food, tea ceremonies, martial arts displays and more

Lyon, with a Chinese community of 15,000 people, also has a Chinatown, located in the Guillotière neighbourhood of the 7th arrondissement, on rue Passet, rue d’Aguesseau and rue Pasteur. Thanks to its important silk industry Lyon has always fostered relationships with China. A Franco-Chinese Institute existed as well from 1920 to 1946 at Fourvière for Chinese students. This year, unfortunately the Chinese New Year parade has been cancelled however a show will still be held at the Cité International.

Commemorative stamps

La Poste has released a commemorative stamp set for the Year of the Monkey. The stamps are in a block of 5 with face value of 0,80 each and sold at La Poste shops or online.


Chinese New Year on the French Riviera

I find it surprising that the French Riviera does not host a Chinese New Year festival yet – Chinese tourism is a key market with huge tourism revenue.


However, February is so busy with other major events and festivals here such as Nice Carnival and Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival) that its understandable that it may be one festival too many to organise.

While I can’t direct you to any Chinese New Year festivals happening on the French Riviera, here is a suggested list below of Asian restaurants in the region to save you trawling through hundreds of TripAdvisor reviews.

These restaurants are my suggestions of where you are most likely to try some traditional foods and who knows, you may get invited to a private party for Chinese New Year! If you want to buy firecrackers, try Air de Fete in Cannes though you’ll need special permission from the Mairie (Town Hall) to let them off.

Comme en Chine, 2 rue Joseph Fricero, 06000 Nice : Suburban Chinese restaurant, authentic Northern Chinese-style food.

Restaurant La Demi-Lune, 2 bd Lech Walesa, 06300 Nice : Authentic Chinese food located close to Nice Port.


Le Dragon Bleu, 2 bis rue Paganini, 06000 Nice : Asian food located not far from Avenue Jean Médecin in Nice so stop by for lunch after shopping.

Le Mandarin, 6 rue Dalpozzo, 06000 Nice : Family-run restaurant in Nice with Chinese-Vietnamese cuisine.

Le Seicle d’Or, 85 Allee Louis Bleriot, 06210 Mandelieu-la-Napoule: Good value ‘all you can eat’ buffet offering a range of dishes from sushi to noodles and fried rice.

Ancre de Chine, 26 boulevard Aiguillon, 06600 Antibes : Broad menu of different Asian dishes covering curries, stir fries, soups


Hong Yun, 4 avenue Tournelli, 06600 Antibes: Located 5 minutes’ walk from Antibes train station with all the Asian dishes you may want

Jade d’Asia, 40 avenue Anatole France, 06800 Cagnes-sur-Mer : A good option for Cagnes-sur-Mer

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10 Interesting French Riviera Festivals in February + Giveaway!

February is approaching quickly and it brings a number of excellent festivals to the French Riviera ranging from food fairs to flower parades and world class carnivals.

With half term school holidays for Zone B (Alpes Maritimes and the Var) falling on the dates 06 to 22 February, there’s plenty of events on to keep everyone entertained.

Here are Access Riviera’s 10 Recommended February Festivals – plus a Giveaway!:


Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, is based on the Lunar Calendar – it is celebrated globally and is one of the largest traditional holidays for Chinese.

In 2016, the Year of the Monkey (Red Fire Monkey), Chinese New Year celebrations start on 08 February.

Chinese New Year - yet to make a mark on French Riviera events

Chinese New Year – yet to make a mark on French Riviera events

In France, Paris hosts big Chinese New Year events each year (mainly in the 13th arrondissement, Belleville, Marais and Noisy-le-Grand) and there are more French cities emerging with dedicated events including Lyon.

I was surprised to see there is no specific event for the French Riviera, especially as Chinese travellers are an increasing market here contributing a sizeable amount of shopping revenue to the French economy. Also, French-China business trade is on the rise, seen last year locally at the first China Summit at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

A Chinese festival can only enhance cross-cultural relations – we host Italian food fairs, St Patrick’s Day events, Russian Christmas celebrations etc so perhaps Chinese New Year is next? Every Chinese New Year festival I have been to overseas has been enjoyed by both local residents and tourists – vibrant displays of lanterns, food stalls, crafts, dragon dances, martial arts, fireworks.


February is busy across the French Riviera region with many festivals however I can’t help thinking this is a missed opportunity for Côte d’Azur Tourism? If an event is not put in place in the future Chinese visitors may turn their interest (and euros) elsewhere including Lyon, Paris, London, Barcelona or Stockholm.

Anyhow, here is a round up in this link of Chinese New Year events across France and a restaurant guide of where you are most likely to be able to ring in ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai on the French Riviera.


Pain, Amour et Chocolate (Bread, love and Chocolate) will be held in Antibes on the dates of 12-14 February and 18-21 February 2016. The festival is organised by the Italian Chamber of Commerce from Nice, the Chamber of Métiers et de l’artisanat of Alpes Maritimes and the town of Antibes.

Most items for sale have a bread, love or chocolate theme just in time for St Valentines Day. Expect to find craft stalls, chocolates in every size and shape and artisan breads. I’ve also picked up some delicious Italian cured meats and pastries before in previous years so take a shopping tote with you.

Pain, Amour et Chocolat, Antibes

Pain, Amour et Chocolat, Antibes


It’s a shadow of its large-scale neighbour taking place in nearby Nice, however if you’re not keen on large crowds head to Cagnes-sur-Mer for their free family-friendly carnival on 13 February from 2pm-5pm. Parade, costumed dancers and confetti battle!

2pm – Parade ‘Colours of Asia’ in centre ville

3pm – Brazilian dance performance at place de Gaulle

©Ricardo Maldonado

©Ricardo Maldonado


Nice Carnival (Carnaval de Nice) deserves a place in the world’s top festivals for the sheer scale of production that goes into it.   Nice Carnival will be held from 12 to 28 February 2016.

Colourful parades day and night with super-sized characters, diverse musicians, energetic dancers, flower battles, a Socca Party, fireworks, a Charity lunch event on the ferris wheel. Carnival swim and the LGBQT-friendly Lou Queernaval.

Super sized characters on the floats at previous Nice Carnivals

Super sized characters on the floats at previous Nice Carnivals

Make sure you attend at least one parade – if you can’t make it you can still follow the action via the official Twiiter account @nice_carnaval with hashtag #nicecarnaval or have a look at the Carnival’s Facebook page.

The theme for 2016 is ‘King of Media’ – I’ll be writing a more in depth guide closer to the festival date with information on transport, parking, tickets as well as accessibility tips for people with reduced mobility so stay tuned!

In the meantime, find the programme and ticket information here:

Carnaval de Nice theme: Roi des Medias

Carnaval de Nice theme: Roi des Medias


Menton’s Lemon Festival (Fête du Citron) to be staged this year from 13 February to 02 March 2016 is a unique festival featuring oranges, agrumes and the famous Mentonnais lemons – 145 tons of them!

The festival attracts over 240,000 visitors annually who head to the seaside town of Menton for night time parades, the Garden of Lights display and the awe-inspiring citrus sculptures at the Biovès Gardens.

Amazing citrus sculptures at Fête du Citron

Amazing citrus sculptures at Fête du Citron

I’m impressed by how much the event website has improved – with smartphone apps available, QR codes, social media integration and online booking – it’s a real advancement on the past websites. I also really like the poster design they use each year because it’s always vibrant and inspiring.

The theme this year is ‘Cinecittà’, and I’m looking forward to all the amazing creations. Highly recommended if you live in the region, or visiting!  To find out more about the Lemon Festival, click here: Menton’s Lemon Festival

Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival) official poster 2016: Theme 'Cinecittà'

Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival) official poster 2016: Theme ‘Cinecittà’

Watch a video of last year’s Lemon Festival display at the Jardins Biovès:


The Combat Naval Fleuri (Naval Battle of the Flowers) is a traditional free festival that presents a colourful display of pointus (traditional fishing boats) covered in flowers, folk music and concerts.

The boats fill Port de la Santé and throw bouquets of mimosa and carnations to the thousands of spectators crowding the quayside in Villefranche sur Mer.

Combat naval fleuri, Villefranche sur Mer

Combat naval fleuri, Villefranche sur Mer

It’s recommended to arrive by train as once you park your car there are many road closures and you’ll find it is stuck there until the end of the parades and festivities!

This year the event is scheduled for Monday 15 February.


The Mimosa Festival (Fête du Mimosa) in Mandelieu from 17 to 24 February 2016 will be bearing the theme ‘Jules Verne’.

Fête du Mimosa 2016, Mandelieu La Napoule. Theme: Jules Verne

Fête du Mimosa 2016, Mandelieu La Napoule. Theme: Jules Verne

The festival is a yellow-hued event with fireworks, performers and the grand flower parade on Sunday 21 February 2016.

Special activities include a guided tour most days to Tanneron with perfume creation in Grasse (prebooking through the Mandelieu Tourist Office, €25 per adult/€22 per child 2-17 years).

For the Fête du Mimosa festival programme and tickets visit this link:

Outside of the Fête du Mimosa, tourists can follow the Route du Mimosa that covers 8 destinations in the Var and Alpes Maritimes including Grasse, Mandelieu, Tanneron, Saint Raphael and Bormes-les-Mimosas. For a map, click this link:

8.  ISOLA 2000

The festival action isn’t limited to the coast – grab your snow gear and make a trip to Isola 2000 on 19 February for the third date of the Ice DJ Festival.

The festival has promised four dates, four DJ’s playing in front of the pistes from 2pm-6pm – entry is free for everyone. 19 February sees DJ Synapson try to warm up the ski set!

ICE DJ Festival, Isola 2000

ICE DJ Festival, Isola 2000


The Festival International des Jeux (26-28 February 2016) is a free family-friendly event held at the Palais des Festivals.

You’ll find a wide variety of activities such as board game competitions (chess, Scrabble etc), video games with game play demonstrations, dance games, race car driving games, card games, figurines and more!

If you have kids into Xbox, Wii, Nintendo, Minecraft, collectors cards, sports games, or puzzles, this is where you should take them.

Festival International des Jeux, Cannes

Festival International des Jeux, Cannes


Head to the village of Tourrettes sur Loup on 27 and 28 February for the traditional festival Fête des Violettes 2016.

Based around the town flower, you can enjoy a themed market, concerts, parades and flower battle. Enjoy the festival then stop by Tom’s on rue Grande – they’re famous for their interesting ice cream flavours but you should try the violette-flavoured ice cream!

Fête des Violettes, Tourrettes sur Loup

Fête des Violettes, Tourrettes sur Loup

Other festivals to see:

VAL D’ALLOS – Mardi Gras on 09 February, and family-friendly Festival Boule de Neige et Ribouldingue from 21-26 February 2016

SAINT RAPHAEL – Town carnival from 14 February 2016 (exact programme yet to be released)


GPSmyCity makes popular apps that feature self-guided city walks in over 470 cities around the world.

To mark Festival February on the French Riviera, Access Riviera is giving away 20 downloads for iOS devices (iPhone and iPad only) for either the Cannes or Nice apps in conjunction with GPSmyCity.

Each one usually costs US$4.99 in the App Store, so here’s your chance to grab some inspiration for walking tours in two of the French Riviera’s most popular destinations!

To win one, simply:

Leave a comment on this blog post or  Facebook page by 10 February 2016 – which one of these 10 festivals above  would you like to go to?

The first 20 answers can then choose whether they prefer Cannes or Nice for their app.

Please note that each promo code is tied to a certain city and, once the promo code is issued, it expires after 28 days, if not used by then.

***NOTE: it is only the promo code that expires, NOT the actual application.  Once downloaded, the application remains valid forever.***

Good luck!

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