Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival or Chūnjié (春节), is one of the most important holidays in China. Chinese people believe that a good start to the year will lead to a lucky year. Chinese New Year’s day, which falls on February 8 this year, will mark the end of the year of the sheep and the start of the year of the monkey according to the Chinese 12-year animal zodiac cycle. A popular greeting this Chinese New Year is: “Hóunián jíxiáng” (猴年吉祥), which means “Good luck for this Monkey year!”
Roughly a sixth of the world will celebrate Chinese New Year. As well as being celebrated in China itself, Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year celebrations occur in Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and many other countries around the world that have significant Chinese populations.
We asked our Beijing-based colleagues, a diverse cohort of foreigners and Chinese, what they like most about celebrating the Chinese New Year.
What do you enjoy most about Chinese New Year?
- I love taking advantage of this longer holiday.
Chinese New Year is the longest national holiday in China, spanning a total of fifteen days, starting from Chinese New Year’s Eve to the Lantern Festival. Most working adults get one week off while students get to enjoy an entire month of holiday. This year, Chinese New Year’s Eve falls on February 7th, with February 7-13 being the official public holiday.Chinese people usually try to get home to their hometowns by Chinese New Year’s Eve, and then stay for a week or two of Spring Festival celebrations. The Spring Festival travel rush known as Chūnyùn (春运) commences in mid-January and ends in late February, when the majority of students and migrant workers flood back into the major cities.
Typically, a large majority of Chinese people will travel home during Chunyun, as it is often the only time they get to see their families all year. While Chinese people traditionally travel home to usher in the New Year, going forward, Chinese New Year may no longer be just about family reunions. The China National Tourism Administration has predicted that the number of Chinese heading abroad during this Chinese Festival break will reach 5.19 million, a 10 percent year-on-year increase. So, Chinese people are increasingly choosing to spend this time abroad rather than at home, taking advantage of the shopping overseas and as an added bonus, avoiding the busiest travel period within the country.
- I enjoy the peace and quiet in Beijing, when the city empties out for the holiday.
The Chinese New Year holiday is the busiest travel time in the world. China’s National Development and Reform Commission is expecting Chinese people to make more than 2.91 billion trips during this 6-week Spring Festival travel rush. During this time, especially in the week leading up to and following Chinese New Year’s day, the major cities are deserted while, in contrast, typically quieter, smaller towns and villages are bustling.Guy Sivan, one of the Co-founders of Vericant, reflects on spending Chinese New Year in Beijing, the Chinese capital of more than 22 million people: “It kind of reminds me of being an international student on my US university campus during Thanksgiving. It’s just the handful of us with nobody else around.”
- I like seeing the fireworks!
While many other Chinese holidays and festivals also feature fireworks, nothing compares to this time of year. Imagine 4th of July fireworks going off non-stop every day for two weeks straight. At midnight on Chinese New Year, fireworks are set off in unison all around the city, lighting up the dark night sky. This event is one of the most incredible firework experiences in the world.
- It’s fun to exchange hongbao with co-workers, family friends and relatives!
A monetary gift tucked in an ornate red envelope known as hóngbāo (红包) is customarily exchanged on special holidays like weddings, birthdays and Chinese New Year. The red color of the envelope symbolizes good luck and is supposed to ward off evil spirits. Thus, the giving of hongbao for Chinese New Year signifies the transmission of good wishes and good fortune in the new year.Hongbao are primarily exchanged between employers and employees and within families. Within the family, children (loosely defined as kids under the age of 16 or before being of working age) will receive hongbao. Once married, the tides are turned. You are then considered an adult and therefore should be giving out hongbao to others.
This important Chinese custom is now just a click away, with many Chinese people choosing to exchange hongbao electronically, through China’s popular social messaging app, Wechat (similar to Whatsapp). China’s fast- expanding smartphone usage and mobile payment is yet another sign of China’s rapid modernization in recent years.
- I enjoy spending quality time with the family, and of course, eating so much good food!
Most Chinese families will stay at home for the traditional Chinese New Year’s Eve reunion dinner. Dinner includes the customary plates of dumplings, made at home earlier that day, along with other traditional dishes. The family hongbao exchange, will also occur over dinner.It has also become customary for many Chinese families to watch the popular TV program: CCTV New Year Gala, which goes on until midnight, and celebrates the official start of the New Year.
The evening may also include exchanging cheers while drinking shots of a strong alcoholic drink known as báijiŭ (白酒). Each shot of baijiu is accompanied by shouts of “gānbēi” (干杯), which literally translates to “empty glass”. So, bottoms up to the year of the monkey!
From all of us in the Vericant family, from North America and China,
We wish you a “Happy Chinese New Year!”
春节快乐 ! (Chūnjié kuàilè!) /恭喜发财! (Gōngxǐ fācái!)