Relocating to China: Act like a local this Lunar New Year!
On 25th January, Chinese around the world will celebrate the Lunar New Year, also known as “Spring Festival” in China. Observances traditionally take place from the evening preceding the first day of the year to the Lantern Festival, held on the 15th day of the month on the Lunar calendar. Mainland China also enjoys a week-long holiday from 24 – 30 January.
This year, we welcome the year of the RAT, the first in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese Zodiac Sign.
According to one myth, the Jade Emperor said the order of the calendar would be decided by the order in which the animals arrived to his party. The Rat tricked the Ox into giving him a ride. Then, just as they arrived at the finish line, the Rat jumped down and landed ahead of Ox, becoming the first to arrive at the party!
The Rat is associated with the Earthly Branch (地支—dì zhī) Zi (子) and the midnight hours. In terms of yin (symbolising night or female) and yang (symbolising day or male) (阴阳—yīn yáng), the Rat is yang and represents the beginning of a new day.
In Chinese culture, rats were seen as a sign of wealth and surplus. Because of their reproduction rate, married couples also prayed to them for children.
If you just moved to China, here are some fun to-do’s to get accustomed to the traditions or simply to immerse yourself in the festivities:
Grab WeChat Red Packets
Sending / Receiving virtual WeChat “red packets” is becoming one of the new and popular tradition in China.
Red packets—also known as 红包 (Hóng Bāo), “Red Envelopes”—containing money are given to and received from friends and families during Chinese New Year as form of blessing and good luck. Chinese also give red packets during weddings, birthday parties, and even as a work bonus.
With the growing popularity of WeChat, a mulit-purpose messaging, social media, and mobile payment app, more and more people are sending and receiving virtual red packets through the group chat. Just make sure you set up your wallet in WeChat, linking it to a local China bank account, as this is the only way in which you can start sending and receiving the red packets.
Have a Spring Festival Dinner—Also Known as “Reunion Dinner”
On New Year’s Eve, families gather for the reunion dinner (tuan nian fan), which is believed to be the most important meal of the year, as it affirms the love and respect that binds the family as a unit.
At this gathering, food is served in abundance, since the Chinese believe that having plenty of food would bring the family great wealth in the new year.
Some favourite dishes during Chinese New Year are:
- Fish – symbolises increase in prosperity
- Dumplings – for wealth
- Spring rolls – for wealth
- Sweet rice balls eaten as dessert (Tang yuan) – for family togetherness
- Tangerine – symbolise fullness and wealth
- Glutinous rice cakes (Nian gao) – for higher income or higher position
- Longevity noodles – symbolise happiness and longevity
After dinner, families often sit together to watch the Spring Festival Gala, one of the most-watched TV shows in China. Like people waiting in New York City’s Times Square gathering to see the ball drop at midnight, Chinese have the custom of staying up late on Chinese New Year's Eve to welcome the new year.
Paste Chinese New Year Decorations and Wear Red
Chinese believe red is an auspicious colour; thus, it is a tradition to paste red couplets and red lanterns around the house and at their doorstep on the eve of the new year. As this year is the Year of the Rat, look out for lots of decorations with rats on them.
On the first day of Chinese New Year, Chinese will also put on new clothes in red or other bright colours. White and black is avoided, as they symbolise death or back luck. It is also customary for the younger generation to visit their elders on this day to wish them health and longevity, and exchange auspicious greetings.
On behalf of Cartus APAC, we sincerely wish you Xin Nian Kuai Le, Shen Ti Jian Kang (Happy New Year and Good Health in the year ahead)!
Impact to relocation/ travelling to and within China:
If you are planning to relocate to China during this period, do expect some delays due to the week-long holiday.
Please note that airports are stepping up screening measures on passengers due to the new coronavirus strain. Take extra precautions to reduce your risk:
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub
- Cover nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms
- Only eat thoroughly cooked meat and eggs
- Avoid contact with live wild or farm animals