If you thought traveling across the US this Christmas was rough try elbowing your way through three billion other people to get home to Mom and Dad to open presents. In China, billions of people journey home during the Chinese New Year holiday creating the largest human migration in the world known as Chunyun. China’s annual epic travel rush is created because so many of the factory works come from the rural areas to live and work in the factories and then return home for holidays. Chinese New Year is the largest of all holidays in China and this year it officially lasts from January 28 to February 21. However, many factories have been closed for over a week already and will remain closed most of February.
Each Chinese New Year is marked by the characteristics of one of the 12 zodiacal animals: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig, and also one of five elements: Gold (Metal), Wood, Water, Fire, or Earth. 2017 is year of the Fire Rooster. If you are a rooster watch out because the Chinese Zodiac says the year of one’s birth sign is an unlucky year in the 12-year cycle
You can find out your sign here
After living and working in Asia for so many years I have a fondness for the Chinese New Year. Perhaps it was because everyone made such a huge ordeal out of the holiday or maybe because I got a nice long vacation. I have a feeling it was the extraordinarily large bonus check I wasn’t expecting that really caught my attention and cultivated a love for the glittering holiday.
There are so many traditions, which revolve around luck and prosperity it is hard not to get sucked into the excitement and enchanting chaos. First there is the New Year’s Eve dinner, the most important dinner for the Chinese. It is a family reunion dinner usually at home where fish and dumplings are traditionally served, a far cry from our massive calorie laden holiday dinners.
Depending on where you live (down south or up in the north) you will either tell people Kung Hei Fat Choi (in Cantonese used down South) or Gong Xi Fa Cai (in Mandarin used up North) When saying this you are wishing them a healthy and prosperous new year.
After dinner it is customary to stay up and watch the city fireworks promptly at 12:01 am, which are thought to drive away evil. Red packets are given generously amongst friends, family members and especially from older people to younger children. Envision an envelope the size of valentines when you were a kid and instead of a cute card inside there would be a small amount of money, ranging from $1-$20 usually. This is to ward off evil spirits and give the recipient a healthy long life. Throughout the city there are loads of decorations, top to bottom red and gold. This theme is carried into the people’s homes and work places. If you go to China during Chinese New Year you will not be able to escape the red and gold fever and you might get some cash out of the deal too!
Kung Hei Fat Choi!