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ART & LEISURE: Adopting Chinese New Year
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Adopting Chinese New Year

By Nadia N.

BT 201701 ART LEISURE 02Chinese New Year or Spring Festival means a lot regardless of awareness of traditions it implies. For most local people, it is one of the few opportunities to get together with their families and get away from the tiring job in metropolitan cities. For expats, it is mostly a great occasion to travel or visit family as there is no point in sitting around while a lot of shops, restaurants and good share of bars are closed.

The first Golden Week of the year for anybody in China is always linked with family and close friends even if it's not preconditioned by tradition. Yet, Chinese New Year more than any other festival in China is wrapped in customs, traditions and folk-beliefs. Chinese are well-known for their traditions taking root in ancient times, religion and superstitions. Therefore celebrating Chi-nese New Year can be an interesting experience for those who reside in China for the holiday.

Red Envelopes

Similar to western New Year, Spring Festival is a time for exchanging gifts and wishing everyone happiness. However, knowing what gifts Chinese people expect to receive can be unexpected. First and undoubtedly the most famous is giving red envelopes. Giving money for celebrations is a tradition that has been adopted in many countries. A little money instead of standard gift from a gift shop can fit better among close friends and family. However, in China there are special canons usually met by people such as lucky money in lucky amounts.

Firstly, avoid giving anyone an amount that includes 4 (assonant of "death") – for example, 444RMB! Secondly, even number amounts are preferable. They bring luck and wealth to the re-ceiver. Moreover, it is important to remember that opening red envelope in front of the donor is against Chinese etiquette. Even if giving red envelopes is one of the most common traditions and everyone loves it, you should give your blessing and say thanks, leaving checking the received amount for later.

Exchanging gifts

As for gifts, it can easily accompany red envelopes or can be given separately. However, as every-thing that happens during first hours of Chinese New Year can be taken as a predictive sign, it is good to know what objects are considered lucky and which can absolutely terrify the receiver.

Liquor, cigarettes, tea, fruit or even healthcare products are more than welcome, while clocks, umbrellas, shoes, pears, sharp objects and chrysanthemums can mortify Chinese people on this significant occasion.


It is widely known that children can top up their money supplies significantly - there is no Chinese kid who isn't looking forward to New Year family reunion. Nowadays, it is said that children in big cities can receive up to 20.000RMB wrapped in fancy red envelopes. And there is a perfectly good (relatively good) reason for that - crying is a big "no-no" during New Year celebration. This act can not only annoy guests and family members, but also bring bad luck to the entire family. So pleas-ing kids financially is one of the ways for Chinese family to put a smile on their faces.

Also, during conversation at the dinner table it might be a good idea to avoid words like "death", "killing", "sick" and so on (while discussing news for instance) as it is thought to be a bad sign and attracts misfortune. It is curious that in some areas even taking medicine during this magic night is not acceptable - you need to appear happy and wealthy when another Zodiac sign (Rooster in 2017) is coming into his rights!

Modern activities

While Chinese enjoy mentioning their long history and rich traditional heritage of their country, time flies rigorously leaving behind a good number of old customs. Nowadays, modern Chinese from cosmopolitan cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and so on prefer to exchange red envelopes and eat dumplings not in foggy Chinese cities, but on the beaches or in hotel suites in other countries. Traveling during this once family-oriented festival is gaining popularity by the hour, providing airlines with wonderful possibilities to benefit.

For the massive flow of people that try to book away all the attractive destinations, it can be quite a challenge to escape China during Spring Festival. Airline companies are not the only ones whose business blossoms during Spring Festival. "Renting boyfriend/girlfriend" services have caught on in China in past couple of years as a young man or woman showing up without a significant other at the door of their parent's house is a rather sad picture for many Chinese parents. So, holding a rented hand and giving parents sweet hope for the future is a new tradition that has spread in big cities and has become somewhat of a shield for Chinese singles to combat marriage pressure.


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