Sunday October 20, 2019

ECONOMICS OF THE CHINESE NEW YEAR
February 14, 2013

Sunday, February 11 marked the beginning of the Chinese Lunar New Year. The Chinese New Year is the largest Chinese holiday. It is celebrated with fireworks, parades, decorations, and eating traditional sweets. It also involves a two-week holiday to enjoy with family and friends.

With the huge Chinese population, including Chinese diaspora spread out around the globe, the Lunar New Year is a holiday that deserves our attention. Here in the U.S., celebrations have been held on school campuses, in Chinatowns, and inside homes. President Obama even put out a statement on the White House website wishing Chinese Americans a happy Lunar New Year.

In a time of globalization and continued concern about our economy, the economic aspects of such a momentous holiday should not be overlooked. New Years’ themed items stock the shelves of stores and fill the vendor stalls lining China’s streets. A temporary market has even emerged of men hiring themselves out as temporary boyfriends to women who want to avoid the shame and pressure of facing their family alone.

This holiday is traditionally characterized by the giving of red envelopes filled with a bit of cash and by indulging in sweets. But as China’s wealth has increased, the extravagance of the holiday has as well. China’s new leadership hoped to curb some of this excess by banning advertisements for luxury items. It has become increasingly common for Chinese to give lavish gifts during the holiday, including to Chinese officials.

Another aspect of this New Years’ austerity measure was to cancel Communist Party holiday celebrations. In previous years, holiday parties for the various Party departments have left high-end restaurants packed in the weeks prior to the holiday break. This year they are nearly empty. Related businesses are also suffering from the government’s attempt to demonstrate more modesty. The alcohol industry has been particularly hurt.

These austerity efforts, however, have not stopped Chinese holiday spending, especially when it comes to travel. Buses and trains are filled to overflowing as Chinese who are spread across the country or working in the countryside rush to spend the holiday feasting and celebrating with family. Cities like Beijing have been emptied out as people travel to their hometowns or abroad.

This Chinese holiday has had a positive effect on the U.S. as Chinese tourists head here on vacation. Not only are these Chinese tourists traveling after the American holiday rush has already died down, but they also tend to spend more while traveling than any other international tourists do. This spending tendency has excited American luxury brands, who are using snakes and other New Years’ themes and decorations to appeal to the Chinese tourists.

While the year of the snake will not have as many weddings as the more auspicious year of the Dragon and Chinese manufactures have had some difficulty making cute and appealing snake-themed merchandise, the economic impact of the Chinese New Year is definitely worth mentioning.

For more information on the Chinese New Year, see the following news articles:

TNT Magazine– “Chinese women hiring boyfriends for New Year to combat family pressure

The Telegraph– “Communist party cancels Chinese New Year celebrations

BBC-China bans luxury gift adverts in austerity push

CNBC-Chinese New Year Brings Tourists and Spending Power to U.S.

CNBC-Why Luxury Brands Are Celebrating Chinese New Year

The Wall Street Journal– “The Year of the Snake Draws Hisses—And Yawns

For Chinese language news on the Lunar New Year, see the articles below:

Xinhua– “中国人喜迎蛇年’快乐新时代’”

Guanghua Daily– “往年春节被催婚 女白领拒回乡过年

China News Service– “春节礼物的故事:背200斤年货 想让爸妈放开吃

Xinhua– “2013年春节专题

 

Compiled and edited by Ariane Rosen