Happy New Year! 新年快乐！
The Chinese New Year celebrations can be traced back to about 3500 years ago. Evolving with societal development, the celebrations take on different forms to reflect circumstances at a particular time. In modern times (more recently under the impact of COVID), new trends have emerged.
1. The world largest annual migration
Observed by billions of people worldwide, the festival is marked by themes of family and reunion. This means traveling across the country is commonplace. The travel, known as 春运 in Chinese, is recorded as the largest annual migration worldwide.
Over 2 billion trips are predicted to be made during the holiday this year. The figure represents an almost 100% increase compared to last year, but still about 30% less than 2019 before COVID restrictions.
2. Digital red envelopes in the spotlight
A red envelope is a monetary gift which is usually given on special occasions, especially the New Year. Since first introduced in 2014 by WeChat, the digital red envelopes have gained fast popularity.
Unlike physical red envelopes, the alternative is environmentally friendly, and of great utility in recent years while COVID continued to spread. Yet despite the lifting of the restrictions, the trend of using digital red envelopes continues.
For many who may feel the concept distant, a digital red envelope is an electronic red packet where transfers are done via the scanning of QR codes or social media. The same as a physical red envelope, digital red envelopes can also come in different designs with customizable greetings and graphics. According to statistics available, in 2022 some 5 billion digital red envelopes were transacted through WeChat, QQ and Alipay platforms, totalling 18.1 billion RMB (USD 2.7 billion).
3. “Stay put, buy online”
In the Chinese tradition new items symbolise a brand-new start. With previous COVID restrictions and thanks to an extremely well-developed ecommerce network, the festival period awarded online stores great opportunities for vast profits.
In 2021 the Chinese government joined hands with some local online marketplaces and logistics companies to generate a total revenue of 906 billion RMB (USD 140.2 billion). As a benchmark, the Single’s Day in the same year raked in around 965 billion RMB (USD 152 billion) in sales value.
The growth momentum continued in 2022. During the first five days of the New Year holiday, the People’s Bank of China processed online transactions worth RMB 4.2 trillion (USD 660.3 billion), a 11.6% growth from last year. Top selling products vary from festive food, seasonal flowers and accessories, to clothes, furniture, and electric appliances. It is said some 749 million parcels were being handled by the country’s delivery sector.
4. No more noisy and environmentally toxic fireworks
For safety and environmental reasons, many cities across China have long ago imposed bans or restrictions on the use of fireworks during festivals. But the celebration wouldn’t be the same without them! While firework displays are only allowed by approved organisations at designated venues and times, there are other innovative ways to enjoy the fun.
In 2020, Shanghai initiated nearly 2,000 drones on New Year’s Eve for a stunning, synchronized light show. The devices flew above the city creating shapes, words and even the figure of a man running across the sky. Fitted with multi-coloured lights, the drones were controlled by a central computer that was programmed to fly the drones. Other cities started to follow suit, Chongqing – the largest Chinese city by population, also put on a 6 minute long light display using drones on New Year’s Eve this year.
5. Pre-order New Year dinner
A traditional way to consume a New Year dinner is that the whole family sits together to share out dozens of dishes. While the food contributes to the highlight of the celebration, cooking can be time-consuming. In 2021 in response to the government’s encouragement to celebrate the New Year close to home (a measure to reduce the spread of COVID), many young people remained in their local area. As a result, online pre-orders of the New Year dinner mushroomed (no pun intended). Orders taken this year so far are said to have increased by 40% compared to last year. Many reputable restaurants and platforms even provide chefs to cook at households. Dinner can be prepared based on the specific needs. Dish-washing and other cleaning can also be included upon requests.