Perhaps the most important holiday for countries with substantial Chinese populations is Chinese New Year. It is also known as the Lunar New Year and the Spring Festival. This year it falls on 28 January and marks the start of the year of the rooster.
Following is a discussion on the importance of the year of the rooster, different ways in which countries are celebrating the world over, and the impact of 1.4 billion people taking a holiday at the same time.
The Year of the Rooster
Each year is related to an animal sign. The cycle has 12 animals and the rooster is the tenth in the cycle. The importance of the rooster lies with the year in which you were born. Babies born in 2017 will all be roosters. Other years of the rooster were 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, and 2005. According to IB Times, Chinese mythology states that “people born under the sign of the rooster are said to be trustworthy, hard-working and sociable but also shameless attention-seekers.”
According to China Highlights, each zodiac year is also associated with one of five elements: Gold (Metal), Wood, Water, Fire, or Earth. This year is a Fire Rooster, a combination that comes only once in 60 years. With the element of fire attached to the rooster in 2017, it means that those born in this year also have a strong sense of timekeeping and responsibility at work.
The Chinese zodiac believes that your least lucky year is the year in which you were born, meaning that all “roosters” should be more careful during this year, especially when it comes to money. They should also make an effort to work hard in their respective careers in order to stay ahead.
Celebrating the world over
The Lunar celebrations are the largest in China, but many nations with large numbers of Chinese residents also celebrate the holiday. These include Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Mauritius, and the Philippines.
Those wanting to plan a trip to enjoy a traditional celebration of the Chinese New Year can look into these places, as listed by CNN:
In the small Nuanquan Town, China, they have a special means of celebrating the New Year. For many centuries, blacksmiths have been throwing molten metal against a cold stone city wall to create sparks because they didn’t have the money to buy real fireworks. The tradition still holds strong until today.
In Ditan, Beijing, more than 100 people reenact the ancient ceremony at the Temple of the Earth in Ditan Park. In Hanoi, Vietnam, the festival is celebrated with an abundance of flowers. The Tet Flower Market in this bustling city announces a beautiful, fresh start to the New Year.
Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken & Noodle in Singapore is one of only two street food stalls that were awarded Michelin stars in 2016. The queues maybe be worth it to kick the year of the rooster off the right way.
Apart from these countries in the east, many western countries also celebrate the Lunar New Year. This is most likely due to the fact that so many Chinese people have come to live in many western countries over the years, establishing China towns and many other Chinese traditions.
London hosts one of the biggest Chinese New Year events outside China – a grand parade through the capital’s West End with music, acrobatics and pyrotechnics. Trafalgar Square boasts beautiful paper lanterns and a lit-up dragon. In Sydney, the city’s three most iconic landmarks will be lit in red to celebrate the Chinese New Year. These are the Syndey Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and the Town Hall.
New York has lined up many fun events, but for a more quirky celebration, there will be $1 dumplings sold on 21 January from 11am to 10pm. Find them at Carma Sasian Tapas and choose between 15 flavors. San Francisco boasts the largest China Town outside China itself and this is also the original China Town. This is where the idea to create more China Towns around the world originated, making it a perfect place to celebrate the New Year.
What is the impact of a Chinese holiday?
Of course, many of the people living and working in the Chinese centres will travel back to their villages for this very important holiday. According to The Telegraph, “the country’s authorities expect the nation to make some 2.5 billion trips by land, 356 million by rail, 58 million by plane and 43 million by sea in a phenomenon called “chunyun”, the world’s largest annual human travel season. It works out as nearly two journeys for every single member of the almost 1.4 billion Chinese population”.
The traffic from 28 January onward is something otherworldly, yet the Chinese transport infrastructure handles it surprisingly well. Between the high speed rail network, the normal rail network, the extensive road network and the ferry network, everyone is able to get home, especially considering the fact that air travel is financially out of reach for most citizens. To ease the traffic, the Chinese government has lifted all toll payments on the roads during Golden Week, the seven days following Chinese New Year.
Another interesting development is that more and more Chinese citizens are choosing to spend their holiday abroad, not back home in their villages. According to the Telegraph, “this year a record number of Chinese were expect to leave the country for the Golden Week, with nearly 6 million outbound trips taken, at an average cost of 10,000 yuan ($1460)”.
Apart from the festivities usually associated with the Chinese New Year and seen in all the villages and capitals, this celebration has, like the western holidays, also transformed into a shopping holiday.
According to CNN, “the Chinese are expected to spend more than $103bn on eating and drinking over Golden Week – nearly twice as much as Americans spend on Thanksgiving. Before this happens, the news site reports, they must organize their travel, which is why railway tickets are purchased online at a rate of more than 1,000 per second over the same period.
The spending doesn’t take place in China alone, however. In Bangkok, Thailand, retail operators are competing to capture the spending worth of 50b baht during the festival. This according to Bangkok Post. The shopping spree is expected to take place in the major retailers like Central Department Store, The Mall Group, Robinson Department Store and Big C Supercenter.
Since Bangkok is already known as an international shopping destination, it is expected that people from all over the world will be looking to buy affordable clothing and other items in the city during the festival.
It is interesting to see how a traditionally rural country’s most important festival is evolving and it will remain interesting to follow these trends in coming years.