New Spring Festival traditions emerging in China


Fewer young people, who are working far away from their hometowns in metropolises such as Shanghai, now look forward to making the journey home for family reunions.
Fewer young people, who are working far away from their hometowns in metropolises such as Shanghai, now look forward to making the journey home for family reunions. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - More Chinese families are choosing to spend their Chinese New Year holidays at domestic resorts or overseas destinations, and young people working in big cities are now more inclined to invite their parents to come to them for family reunions, according to a recent report released by a domestic tourism website.

Traditionally, people return to their hometowns from the places where they work or study to celebrate the Chinese New Year, which gives rise to the Spring Festival travel rush, or chunyun, that is the world's largest annual human migration. This year's chunyun began on Feb 1 and will continue through March 12.

However, fewer young people, who are working far away from their hometowns in metropolises such as Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, now look forward to making the journey home for family reunions.

Besides having to battle for an air or train ticket and making tiring long-distance journeys by car, most of the young people also face intense grilling by relatives back home about their personal lives, having to answer questions such as "How much do you earn every month?", "Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?" or "Have you bought a house?".

Giving children of relatives and friends hongbaos - red envelopes containing cash - is also a heavy economic burden for young people whose incomes are usually relatively low. Some complain that months of wages go into hongbao.

The reverse chunyun - in which parents in rural areas travel to visit their children in the cities, and more families embarking on overseas trips - is a welcomed trend which will relieve the pressure on the railways and roads during the annual travel peak.

Indeed, the ways of celebrating Spring Festival have undergone much changes with China's economic and social development.

As the rate of urbanisation accelerates, and with more people having migrated from the rural areas to the cities to work, the gap between urban and rural areas have narrowed, especially in terms of lifestyle.

For instance, it used to be a tradition in rural China for all family members to gather at home for the Spring Festival Eve dinner of jiaozi, or dumplings, but now it has become increasingly popular for these families to have their reunion dinners at restaurants, just as people in the cities do.

While Spring Festival holidays also used to be a time for people to get together with childhood schoolmates and friends, the emerging Spring Festival trends will mean that the holidays are primarily for parents-children reunions.