Chinese New Year: Year of the Rooster

When is Chinese New Year?

Wherever you are in the world, it’s difficult to ignore Chinese New Year, which starts this year on Saturday, January 28. Red lanterns, parades, gold coins, firecrackers and most of all, giant roosters, are all part of the celebrations as we enter the Year of the Rooster.

The festival, which is governed by the lunisolar calendar and so falls on a different date every year, starts on the second new moon after the winter solstice and officially ends 15 days later on the full moon.

How does Chinese New Year affect global business?

Whatever your feelings about Chinese astrology, Chinese New Year has an enormous impact on business as it’s such a major cultural event. It’s considered one of the biggest holidays on the planet, celebrated by an estimated 1.357 billion people, which has a ripple effect on global trade, just as Christmas does in Western economies, when often, little work is done for two whole weeks.

Workers in China get seven days of leave for New Year, and given that the festival lasts for 15 days and the Chinese have more disposable income and propensity to travel than ever before, the country will grind to a halt as people head off to visit friends and family.

Manufacturing stops and shipping slows right down as most ports close. Financial markets also shudder to a halt as it’s not just China that celebrates. Holiday is taken in Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam, as well as Malaysia and Indonesia, not to mention places with big expatriate Chinese communities, such as London, San Francisco, Sydney and Melbourne.

But it’s not all bad news; Chinese spending overseas spikes over the holiday period. New Year has spawned all kinds of products, not least a line of rooster-branded bags and coin purses from luxury London department store Harrods.

If you are doing business in China or with Chinese companies, it’s always useful to understand what New Year – and the Year of the Rooster – means to your colleagues. If you are an employer, this is the month to give ‘red envelopes’ or ‘lai see’ (lucky money) to employees; essentially, a 13th month of salary as a bonus. Whether or not you are based in China, be aware that Chinese employees are likely to want to take leave around this time. And if you discover that a business contact is actually a rooster, be cautious before congratulating them, as one’s zodiac year is typically expected to be a tough one.

Who will crow in the Year of the Rooster?

So what might the Year of the Rooster bring? Investment group CLSA’s very funny annual Feng Shui Index is worth a look; although it’s completely tongue-in-cheek it has actually made some pretty accurate predictions in years past. This year, after initial ‘scratching around’, it anticipates that the Hang Seng, itself a rooster, having been ‘born’ in 1969, will peak in July and August. Oil, gas and tech will do well mid-year; pharma will be the top sector in April and renewables will shine in August.

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

About the Author

Sue Bryant

Sue Bryant is an award-winning writer and editor specialising in global business culture and travel.

One thought on “Chinese New Year: Year of the Rooster

  1. When I wrote this, we were in the fourth day of the Chinese New Year festivities, with eleven more days to go. Having lived away from home for so long, here are some of my favorite memories from my childhood days …

    New clothes, auspicious meals

    As children, we couldn’t wait long enough for New Year to arrive in all its pomp and splendour. Mum had made sure all of us got new clothes weeks before, often 3-5 new outfits each for me, my 4 sisters as well as my 3 brothers … but we weren’t allowed to begin wearing any of them till the Big Day. Lots of commotion and excitement filled the household in preparation for the annual festivities. One of the main highlights was the New Year’s Eve Reunion dinner – always an enormous meal of longevity noodles (symbol of happiness & long life), dumplings with minced meat & vegetables (symbol of prosperity), steamed fish (symbol of financial surplus), nian gou or glutinous rice cake (symbol of a successful career) and tang yuan or sweet rice balls (symbol of family togetherness).

    Firecrackers, Angpows and guests

    As the evening advanced to midnight, firecrackers could be heard all around the neighbourhood, bringing noise that chases away the evil spirits. Suffice it to say, no one sleeps much that night but we children were so excited we couldn?t sleep anyways. Come morning, we awoke early for breakfast so we could be ready for relatives and friends to come visit. Mum & Dad had given each of us Angpows (red envelopes) with money inside. Then the continuous flow of relatives on the First & Second Days followed by close friends of the family on subsequent days. Each day, there were Angpows galore, all married couples gave away these much desired red envelopes to children of the families they visited. We couldn’t stop counting the money we were collecting each day. There was a protocol to follow: younger relatives visited older ones first as a sign of respect, then on later days Mum and Dad visited the younger relatives in turn and gave Angpows to their children too. Higher income levels gave more than lower income levels, people of equal socio-economic rank tried their best to equal the sum given in Angpows so that no families suffered a significant loss.

    Dragon & Lion dances

    Out on the streets, dragon and lion dance processions come and go accompanied by more firecrackers, music of beating drums, clashing cymbals, and resounding gongs, skilfully choreographed to the agile movements of the dragon and lion dancers. Well-to-do families happily hire these procession bands to visit their homes to chase evil spirits away and accumulate good fortune for the whole year.

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