The Luna New Year (aka the Chinese New Year) is almost upon us. Every year the date of the Chinese New Year changes, this is because it is linked with the Luna calendar not the Gregorian one which the West uses. While the frivolity will start off on the 28th of January the proper holidays begin on the 5th of Feb, lasting until the 15th. This is the longest holiday in China, the holiday is also observed in Japan, Korea, Mongolia and Vietnam.
If you are planning on doing businesses in China between the 5th and 15th, think again – just like Kiwis over the Christmas / New Year break, everyone goes on holiday and emails go unanswered (WeChat however will be very busy, sending greetings and hongbaos [red pockets])
During the holiday cities like Beijing and Shanghai will fall (almost) silent as many Chinese return to their hometowns, in the process taking part in the worlds largest human migration (good luck trying to buy a train ticket – maybe consider flying).
Hongbaos will be given to children (Red Envelops filled with money), gods (and ancestors) may be prayed to (originally the Spring Festival was a ceremonial day to pray to gods for food planting), fireworks will be (legally and illegally) set off – originally this was done to chase away monsters and evil spirits, today more for entertainment.
The most important part of the Spring Festival is arguable the food – none more so than the New Year’s Eve reunion dinner (however don’t worry if you miss it, there will be many more meals to come). There will also be a lot of dumplings consumed (which is good if you like dumplings)
In between the many feasts which will be consumed over the holiday most of China will tune in to CCTV to watch 中央电视台春节联欢晚会 (the Spring Festival Gala). This variety show is one of the most widely viewed shows on the planet and includes a range of performances from comedy, song and dance, acrobats and magic, Chinese opera,
The fact that all the shops, restaurants and cafes are closed may make you see red, or that may just be because of the red decorations which adorn every doorway – think of all the recycling (once they are eventually removed)! There will be even more recycling required after the Lantern Festival which runs from the 16 th to the 19 th of February. Many parks will be adorned with beautiful lanterns, in New Zealand many local councils will also arrange Lantern Festival celebrations.
Now, for us laowai (foreigners) rather than calling out “Happy New Year” as a greeting, why not try something new – how about “Xin Nian Kuai Le” (phonetically “Shin Knee-en Kwhy Lerr”), which literally means “Happy New Year”; or we can mix it up further with “gōng hè xīn xǐ” which literally translates to respectful congratulations on the New Year; or “xīn chūn zhì xǐ” (record the happiness from the new spring in English). As New Zealand as a large population of Chinese which originally came from Guangzhou and Hong Kong you are likely to also hear “Gong Xi Fa Cai” (wishing you a prosperous New Year), some commercially minded children may follow the greeting up with “Hong Bao Na lai” (where is my Red Pocket?)
If you were born in either 1923, 1935, 1947,1959, 1971,1983,1995 or 2007 or are planning to be born in 2019 your zodiac sign is Pig 猪 (zhū) – generally speaking being a pig is a good thing. However do not get too excited – when a person is in a year of their star sign animal they may experience temptations, evil spirits and potential downfall. During the year you must be vigilant. However you do not need to worry, there are many ways to offset this risk, for example going to temple or wearing red underwear every day for the entire year.