SERIES: Connecting Australia and China

Our popular blog series on Connecting Australia and China is coming to a close but we’re going out with a bang! Next week, Chinese communities all over the world will celebrate Chinese New Year - also known as Spring Festival - on January 28th. 2017 will be the year of the rooster and all work will stop during the week-long festivities as family and friends welcome the new year together. From red street decorations to dragon dances, read on to find out more about what Chinese New Year is all about and how to celebrate alongside your Chinese coworkers, customers and business partners.

The Spring Festival is said to have originated during the Shang Dynasty, which is roughly between the 11th and 17th century BC. Chinese New Year was initially celebrated to fight against a monster named ‘Nian’ who awakened on the first day of the new year and descended on a Chinese village to eat its children and livestock. Terrified of him, the villagers used to board their homes and hide during this time until an old man, a god in disguise, visited them. He protected them from Nian for a while and when it was time for him to leave, he revealed that Nian was afraid of the colour red and loud noises. So it came to be that people decorated their houses in red and burst firecrackers to scare him off. With more than 4000 years of history, Chinese New Year is considered the grandest and most important annual event for the people of China.

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There are a variety of cultural traditions that are observed throughout the country in celebration of this time, including temple fairs where dragon dances and lion dances can be seen, setting off fireworks, worshipping ancestors, and watching imperial performances (eg. the emperor’s wedding). Gifts are exchanged among friends and family members and red envelopes containing money are given. The colour of the envelope is meant to signify good luck. Cooking fish is also considered a must during this time as it is believed to bring in a surplus of money and good luck in the coming year.

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While this would be a great time to visit for tourists, it’s best to avoid making a business trip to China as the transport and travel scene will be incredibly chaotic with the entire country on the move. Just because you're not there though, doesn't mean you can't show your Chinese customers and business partners that you care! As a foreign business working with China, make sure you reach out to your Chinese business associates with a greeting and wish them a happy new year. Apps like WeChat allow you to send red envelopes online, a feature that is increasingly popular with the younger generation.

If you do happen to be in China during this time, make sure you bring gifts for your associates as it’s customary to exchange gifts on Chinese New Year. Some common gifts include a bottle of wine, alcohol or cigarettes for men and skin care or beauty products for women. As mentioned in our earlier post, foreign products are viewed favourably in China, so your associates would be more than happy to receive authentic Australian products.

You can participate in the festivities by taking part in a few of the aforementioned customs and decorating your offices for the annual event. Red and gold banners with messages of ‘good luck’ are common in business establishments at this time, and similar to Christmas parties held here in Australia, office parties are held in China to celebrate the festival. There are also certain plants that you can decorate your offices with which are considered ‘lucky plants’, like orange or mandarin trees, bamboos and branches of cherry blossoms.

Will you be celebrating Chinese New Year? Leave a comment and let us know!

References:
http://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/special-report/chinese-new-year/
https://www.travelchinaguide.com/essential/holidays/spring-festival.htm
http://www.china-family-adventure.com/chinese-new-year-traditions.html