An important date for your diary: Chinese New Year

Businesses and organisations that have interests in China will be aware that Friday 16th February is Chinese New Year. What you might not be expecting is for your associates in China to go on holiday for a week or more, as this is a very significant date in the Chinese calendar.

Unlike in the UK where New Year is celebrated on the 31st December with just one bank holiday to recover afterwards, Chinese New Year lasts for fifteen days (more if you include the preparations beforehand). Chinese New Year is also one of only two week-long holidays in the China – the other is National Week held in October – so there is a lot of excitement about the festivities.

As I write this blog post many of our Chinese translators will be preparing for the holiday, cleaning their homes, shopping for the New Year and putting up spring couplets – lines of poetry fixed to doorframes to celebrate and express best wishes for the New Year. We’ve been working hard to ensure that our clients’ Chinese translation requirements are met before Friday!

How is Chinese New Year celebrated?

Chinese New Year falls on the 30th of the 12th lunar month. This year it’s Friday 16th February, last year it was the 28th January and next year it will be the 5th February 2019. This can catch businesses in other countries by surprise, as unless you have a Chinese calendar (or are a keen astronomer) you probably won’t be aware of the lunar cycle!

New Year’s Eve in China is spent enjoying a family meal or ‘reunion dinner’ often involving traditional dishes such as dumplings (jiaozi) in the northern half of China, whereas in Southern China niangao (sticky rice cake) is eaten. As a Chinese linguist and Sinophile I will be making dumplings for the office to enjoy! This meal is very important for many people as it’s often one of the only times whole families get together during the year. Many people work and live far away from home, so it’s a particularly special time of year.

New Year’s Eve is also the time when ‘lucky money’ is given to children. You may remember an advert for HSBC a few years ago that showed children receiving red envelopes to bring prosperity at New Year. As you may expect, New Year’s Eve is also a late night with everyone staying up to celebrate the dawn of the New Year and the launch of numerous fireworks and firecrackers. It’s noisy!

On Chinese New Year’s Day it’s traditional to leave offerings for the ancestors. Some families will have an ancestor altar in their home, others will visit tombs or temples to kneel and bow in front of the shrine or grave, and leave offerings such as food, wine and sticks of incense.

The following days are spent visiting family and friends, and exchanging the traditional greeting of gongxi (literally meaning respectful joy). Most people return to work on day 8 but the spring festival continues until the 15th day culminating in the Lantern Festival (Friday 2nd March 2018). This involves sending up Chinese lanterns, enjoying time with friends and family, and more fireworks!

Another point of interest is that 2018 is a Year of the Dog. The dog is the 11th sign in the Chinese zodiac and symbolises luck and good fortune.

How to wish your clients a Happy New Year

Making the effort to communicate in Chinese, especially around auspicious days like Chinese New Year, is always welcome. If your business has clients in China or business associates, wishing them a happy new year is great way to recognise the importance of this celebration and their culture.

If you want to send an email greeting you can use “Zhù​ nín​ Zhōng​guó​ gǒu​nián​ jí​xiáng, wàn​shì​rú​yì​!”which means “I wish you an auspicious Year of the Dog, may all your hopes be fulfilled”. Alternatively if you have the opportunity to speak to a Chinese colleague over the holiday, practice saying “Xīn nián kuàilè!”.

As always if you need support with Chinese translations or interpreting, Comtec are here to help. Please get in touch with our team to discuss your requirement and get support communicating in this market.

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