The celebration that spans the world
More than a sixth of the world’s population celebrates the Lunar New Year but there’s more to this event than just family reunions.
By Damon Frith
The Lunar New Year, also known as Spring Festival, represents the world’s greatest mass migration as close to 3 billion trips are made by families reconnecting with their loved ones. That’s a lot of bus, train and plane tickets. But it’s once the destination is reached that the festivities start.
Lunar New Year celebrates many traditions, but most serve the purpose of ushering in good fortune and prosperity. If you’re keen to bring in as much luck as possible, try following the New Year practices of removing clutter and forgiving old debts. As an extreme measure, don’t undertake any sweeping during the holiday as this is believed to sweep away any incoming luck.
The event falls on a different date each year and this year - the year of the Pig - it’s Tuesday February 5. According to Chinese astrology, the Pig attracts success in all areas of life, which is hopefully a positive sign for investing in 2019.
Lunar New Year generally runs for two weeks and attracts global attention. Cities around the world now host mainstream events outside their traditional Chinatowns, many rivaling Christmas celebrations. San Francisco, for example, offers one of the most spectacular night-time illuminated parades in the US and the event is considered to be one of the largest celebrations of Asian culture in the northern hemisphere. London doesn’t disappoint either as hundreds of thousands turn out on the West End to enjoy the colourful parade, free stage performances and traditional Chinese food.
Number of envelopes purchased: Billions of red envelopes are purchased as a way to send good wishes and luck as well as money.
How many celebrate: This year more than 2 billion people around the world are expected to celebrate the New Year.
Mass migration: 200 million Mainland Chinese travel for this holiday. It is estimated there will be 3.5 billion journeys in China while tens of millions travel in other countries.
Fireworks: No single hour in any other country sees as many tonnes of fireworks lit as in China at midnight at the start of Lunar New Year.
But long before the celebrations begin, industries around the world take action. The magnitude of this holiday period means they need to be well prepared. As most Chinese take their holidays during this time, China’s factories shut down, creating issues for any unprepared overseas retailers and importers that rely on products from China throughout the year. On the other hand, within China, the transport, retail and tourism sectors are at their busiest.
Lunar New Year is also a time to exchange gifts including the lucky red envelopes containing money. In a sign of the times, people are also using social media apps such as WeChat to exchange these red packets, often in meaningful amounts.
Retailers experience a boost in sales around this time as Chinese workers receive their holiday bonuses and seek to splurge on gifts. Last year, for example, sales in restaurants and shopping malls rose 10.2 per cent during the Spring Festival compared with the previous year. This year, any gifts with pig symbols will be considered lucky. For example, bracelets and figurines of pigs containing crystals are believed to bring about a constant high income, abundance and prosperity. A figurine of a pig is also considered an excellent feng shui present for those seeking a “fatter” pay packet or a new job. International retailers, such as Harrods in London, are taking advantage of the holiday with countless pig-themed products on sale.
Just take note of the taboos around gift-giving. Clocks are apparently the worst gifts to give and some regions have their own local taboos.
Meanwhile, Gong hei fat choy – Congratulations and be prosperous.
Source: China Highlights: 10 interesting facts about Chinese New Year
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