This Saturday marked the beginning of the Chinese New Year festivities – the Year of the Rooster. With it came the mass migrations in China and abroad, as well as the normal festivities, including fireworks and a New Year special on China’s CCTV that, for Chinese, marks the most important television program of the year.
The Chinese New Year is marked according to the traditional lunar calendar, where a month is defined as a single lunar cycle. As such, the date according to the Western calendar (also used for day-to-day life in China) shifts. In 2016, the date was February 8.
Chinese years are cycled between twelve different animals – last year was the Year of the Monkey, this year the Year of the Rooster. According to Al Jazeera, people born during the Year of the Rooster are said to be brave, responsible, and punctual.
The holiday is the primary annual festival for Chinese, a combination of Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, and New Years combined. Children and the young wish their elders a happy New Year with set phrases: gongxi facai (gong-shee fah-tsai, or “may you have a prosperous New Year!”) and longma jingshen (“may you be as vigorous and healthy as the horse and dragon!”) are the most common. In return, the elders present them with hongbao (“red packets”) filled with crisp, freshly printed money in even denominations. Inside the packets can be anywhere from the equivalent of $5 to upwards of $100.
Meanwhile, families come together from all over China for meals that can range from small and intimate to extravagant. The demand for travel during the holiday is intense: standing room tickets for trains (the primary mode of long-range domestic transit in China) sell out months ahead of time. According to Forbes, China’s National Reform and Development Commission, China’s economic planning body, anticipates almost three billion trips during the holiday season. Of these, 2.5 billion will be made by land and 356 million by train.
In comparison, the total number of trips made during the six-day Thanksgiving holiday period, according to the Department of Transportation, is a little over 113 million.
A large number of China’s travelers come from its large migrant worker population, who, at close to 280 million, make up over 35 percent of China’s workforce, according to the South China Morning Post.
China’s growing economy and its increasing consumption make Chinese New Year a tempting new target for Western businesses. This is especially the case with luxury goods, as, according to The New York Times, Chinese shoppers account for nearly half of the global luxury market.
Designers have taken advantage of this fact – Forbes reported that the Italian brand Moncler, for instance, debuted a red jacket, brocaded with images of roosters and trimmed with a gold zipper for the New Year. Red and gold are traditional, positive colors in Chinese culture, representing fortune and prosperity.
What have you heard about Chinese New Year? Would you get a standing-room ticket on a train to go home for the holidays? Sound off in the comments and tell us what you think!
By James Mayfield