Winter Holidays in China

I think we can all agree that holidays are important, not just because they give us some well-earned rest (and play) but because they also allow us to spend time with loved ones. The problem with this is that as the world grows into an intrinsically connected placed, holidays of different countries are beginning to class against one another. Uh-oh!

Christmas: this is usually the main winter holiday that seems to causes odds between China and other countries that celebrate this holiday. During December, the majority of countries in the West are in a “Christmas mood” that is seen through all avenues of a country. For instance, the films in the cinema and shows on T.V have a distinct Christmas tone; the shops only advertise Christmas treats and gifts and even the radio is filled with Christmas songs. *Cue Mariah Carey’s ‘All I want for Christmas is you’*
In the West during December, places of work and education begin to wind down as everybody heads towards this holiday that is seen as a time for family, friends and loved ones. Yet for those in China who may be conducting business dealings with countries who celebrate Christmas, this can create a variety of problems. Work that is expected during this month will be delayed if not canceled altogether, people will be harder to reach and general work morale will be disrupted – it’s Christmas!

This is heavily contrasted with December in China where the month is…well any other month! Children are present at school, people are still at work and the country continues as it usually does. However, as China begins to open up and become more multi-cultural, we are seeing a rise in the observance of Christmas. Now there are more Christmas themed events and activities especially in main Tier 1 cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.

The only difference is when Tier 1 cities observe Christmas, it’s more of a showcase than a celebration as it is still not a main holiday in China. Shops and places of work may acknowledge Christmas with Christmas trees and lights but it is still missing that “Christmas spirit”. In the same way in the West, the Chinese New Year is observed but it isn’t as emphatically honored as it would be in China and other parts of Asia. Individuals may choose to visit a Chinese restaurant or see a Chinese New Year parade but that doesn’t harbor much of the essence of what Chinese New Year is all about.

New Year: in most parts of the West this very short holiday (two days) is celebrated with a plethora of music, presents, alcohol, food and tons of partying! For example, in London (UK) on New Year’s Eve, there is a countdown to the new year with Big Ben and as it chimes in the new year, an enormous fireworks display erupts over Embankment. The next day is a public holiday and the festivities continue once more.

In China, there is indeed a public holiday yet this isn’t as extravagant as other parts of the world, whereas aforementioned in London. In the West, businesses and schools will still be closed for a few days after New Year’s Day and even then, things will take a while to ramp back up to normality.

Chinese New Year: this is a special holiday that is very unique to China in many ways that are different from New Years in the West. First of all, and most interestingly, the date for Chinese New Year always changes depending on the Chinese Lunar calendar. In 2017 Chinese New Year began on January 27th while in the forthcoming year (2018) it will be pushed back to February 16th. This is in complete contrast to New Year in the West which is always held on the fixed dates of 31st December – 1st January.

During Chinese New Year there is what can be considered a mass exodus of people in mainland China as individuals travel back to their native hometowns to spend time with family and friends. For the West, this can become a big problem as executives and business owners are unreachable in what is the beginning of a new business year in the West. During January and February, businesses are planning for the year ahead, taking into account summer which will soon be on its way. Unfortunately, these plans can be thrown into disarray as they clash with the Chinese New Year celebrations.

In the West it is customary to give presents during New Year which can be literally anything from socks (thanks, Grandma!) concert tickets, to an iPhone or new bike – you name it! In China, it is customary to give out red envelopes which are small packets of money either digitally through WeChat or a physical red envelope containing money.

VIPKID Teachers: so what then does all of this mean for our beloved VIPKID teachers? Well, first of all, it would be highly beneficial to keep as many teaching slots open during the December holidays. We know how easy it can be to switch off and watch re-runs of Christmas movies and help yourself to extra helpings of (insert Christmas dishes you love!) Yet for the kids in China, nothing has changed and they will still be eager to learn English from their favorite teachers!

Also, word to the wise, in the weeks preceding and proceeding Chinese New Year, there is usually a huge drop in classes. So for teachers who may be depending on income during this time, it would be best to teach as many classes as possible before then!

In the end, we could talk forever about the differences between the Chinese and West winter holidays; but what about the similarities between the two? It is evident that no matter where the holiday is, whether in the West or in China, the holidays are a time for love, family, reflection and Mom’s cooking!

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