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February 04, 2013

Seriously, What is Chinese New Year?

A few months ago I spent some time in California visiting customers and preaching preparation for the upcoming Chinese New Year. On the return trip from San Francisco, I got the question, “Seriously, what is Chinese New Year?” After the two minute supply chain planning speech, it turned to culture. This guy wanted to know what it meant to people in China. So, here’s what we covered:

Chinese New Year is an annual celebration marking the start of the New Year according to the Chinese lunar calendar. In 2013, Chinese New Year begins on February 10th. Each Chinese new year is represented by 1 of the 12 creatures of the Chinese Zodiac – 2013 is the year of the Snake.

The Chinese Zodiac order is: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.

The Snake possess such character traits as intelligence, gracefulness and materialism. It is said the Year of the Snake will be a good year economically and for prospective business owners. The Water Snake, which last occurred on 1953 and will occur in 2013, is symbolized a born leader — influential and motivated. Stopping at nothing to get what it wants, rewards and wealth are expected.

Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival, and used to signal to farmers in China that they must begin preparation for the sowing of their fields so they could harvest them in the autumn.

Legends of Chinese New Year:
(1) Legend has it that once upon a time, there was a monster called Nian that attacked Chinese villages every spring, eating anything that came its way – people, animals, plants and the odd building. One spring, villagers hung red paper on their doors and threw bamboo on a fire when arrived. The monster was so startled by the bright colors and loud crackling noise of the burning bamboo that it turned and fled. Today, Nian refers to the New Year's day or the Spring Festival. Also, the word“ nian” is the Chinese word for year.

(2) Others say the idea of Chinese New Year is to let go of grudges and to reconcile; there is also the idea that it is important to wish peace and happiness to anyone and everyone.

Chinese New Year decorations consist of lanterns, cherry blossoms, orange-trees and lots of red color. Leading up to Chinese New Year, the distinct classical spring festival music is played in public places, most commonly the bowed stringed instrumental style.

The most important element of Chinese New Year is the reunion dinner which is held on the eve of the New Year. This is the time when all family members will come together for a lavish, multi-course meal. Fish is often eaten as the Chinese word for fish is a homophone for surplus.

Gift giving is an important component of Chinese New Year, with the most common gift amongst family, colleagues and business contacts being boxes of oranges, or live orange trees. What most people know about CNY are the little red packets with new currency notes inside (Red Envelopes!!!). Traditionally these were given to children.

This culture is 10,000 miles away and to many in the US, it is confusing. Imagine trying to manage your business or suppliers during this three+ week vacation! Don’t try to do it alone. Call us to understand what Chinese New Year means for you and your business, 404-252-9441. We’ll be happy to help you plan around the holiday. To read more about how East West can help you plan during CNY, read our blog posts here and here.

Jeff Sweeney
East West Manufacturing

404.252.9441 | www.ewmfg.com | jsweeney@ewmfg.com

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