We hope you are ready for February 2024, and have marked it in your calendars, as you should be prepared for a whole month packed with Chinese New Year festivities that change the business pace in China. The Chinese New Year (CNY), also known as the “Spring Festival,” is the most important holiday in China and many other east Asian countries.
Although CNY’s celebrations stretch across 16 days, local employees in China take a 7-day official vacation (and return two working days on the following weekends). This year it will be between February 10th and 24th. CNY’s holiday is renowned for its unique, nearly halted business pace. Foreign brands doing business in China need to be prepared ahead of time, on all fronts – from business to logistics and culture.
Check out this brief guide to better understand how to treat your Chinese employees, customers, and suppliers around the CNY period, and when local employees resume work.
Chinese culture during CNY
CNY is a colorful and cheerful holiday characterized by big family reunions. These family gatherings incite a mass movement of people journeying home all across the country, resulting in heavy traffic on the roads and trains.
A typical image of a train station in Shanghai several days before CNY
Traditionally, CNY is also a very “noisy” holiday. The legend tells of a terrible monster who used to attack villagers every year, and to defend themselves, the villagers tried scaring it away by making noise and flashy red and gold colors. This custom persists in contemporary China, as people expel the previous year and welcome the new one with boisterous celebrations and spectacular fireworks.
The traditional Chinese calendar is a lunar calendar, so the holiday dates change from year to year. The Chinese calendar has 12 “zodiacs” all of which manifest in the form of animals, but unlike the Western calendar, these zodiac signs represent years rather than months.
For example, currently, the year of the Rabbit is coming to an end, and the year of the Dragon will begin on February 10th. The dragon is the only mythical animal in the Chinese zodiac and in that, a fairly magical one. The characteristics attributed to the dragon are leadership and Charisma, creativity, commitment, and hard work, somewhat along the lines of a Work-hard, Play-hard attitude but with smart and strategic intent.
In Chinese tradition, the dragon is a symbol of luck and prosperity. 2024 will have the Wood Dragon which also represents growth and abundance. There are a lot of expectations and greater optimism in the air, for the coming of the Chinese New Year.
Read more about logistics services in China
During the holiday, there is a complete change of routine in China. Early preparation for these significant days is critical for foreign brands doing business in China. Get five tips that will help you operate through the holiday successfully.
1 – Prepare your supply chain and inventory
CNY creates a logistical bottleneck. That’s to say, during this period, the demand for goods and international shipping increases, while at the same time, many factories in China shut down or operate at a far lower output. The overload at factories and ports accumulates weeks before the holiday and continues weeks afterward. Preparing and storing sufficient supply early enough would help mitigate the deceleration at customs, shipping, and distribution challenges. Read more about how to Optimize Your Supply Chain Management in CNY 2023.
2 – Know what to say
When the New Year approaches, we recommend delivering greetings to your Chinese suppliers, employees, customers, and all of your contacts in China. The New Year is an excellent opportunity to show your respect for their culture, communicate appreciation, and strengthen your relationships in China. We recommend using one of the following greetings:
Happy New Year 新年快乐, Xīn nián kuài lè
Good Health 身体健康, Shēn tǐ jiàn kāng
Blessing for the success of the business 生意兴隆, Shēng yì xīng long
Happiness and prosperity 恭喜发财, Gōng xǐ fā cái
3 – Gifts and red envelopes (Hongbao)
Gifting local employees in China red envelopes with money is a common custom. The sum can be any amount consisting of the lucky number 8. Although some applications like WeChat, often replace traditional envelopes with virtual ones, this custom continues to exist and is always appreciated.
Alternatively, you can also bring gifts. But take note – prepare your gifts in even numbers, meaning two boxes of chocolate or two bottles of wine, and under no circumstance three.
4 – Everything is Red!
Red is considered the fortunate color of the holiday, and it holds prominence in Chinese culture overall. It symbolizes abundance and protection from harm. Therefore, it is customary to don attire in shades of red, as well as other vibrant colors like pink or orange, throughout the festive season. This practice is particularly significant for individuals born in the same zodiac year as the approaching new year. It is believed that they may be more susceptible to the influences, whether positive or not, that the new year brings. It’s advisable, however, to refrain from wearing white or black to any celebratory events.
5 – Day 5: The God of Wealth 迎财神
After the initial celebrations subside, they resume on the 5th day of Chinese New Year (CNY). On the 5th day (破五 pò wǔ, the broken fifth), the Chinese welcome the God of Wealth. This practice is a tradition aimed at ensuring a year of good fortune and prosperity. It involves seeking to eliminate the “5 poors”: poor wisdom, poor learning, poor literature, poor friendship, and poor life. So, don’t be surprised if you hear firecrackers reigniting 5 days after CNY.
The PTL Group team wishes you a happy Chinese New Year.
We will be glad to be at your service at any time!