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By Christian Lopez | 16 February 2021 | 0 Comments

How to navigate Spring Festival as a foreigner

It goes without saying that the past year has been a rollercoaster for everyone. While the Covid-19 situation is being handled brilliantly here in China, it has still affected us all in various ways. With Spring Festival approaching, the Chinese government has given official notice to its citizens and anyone living in China that it would be best not to travel during this time. Keep on reading to learn more about the history of Spring Festival (aka Chinese Lunar New Year) and what you can do in your city during the holiday. 


Spring Festival supposedly started during the Shang Dynasty. Initially, it was an annual worship ceremony. The main purpose of Spring Festival was for people to pray to deities and their ancestors in hopes for a good harvest that year. Several symbols have arisen from those traditions. It is common to wear red clothing to bring good luck, buy new clothing to bring prosperity, and clean your house before Spring Festival arrives to rid your home of bad energy. This ancient tradition has kept much of its original intention and evolved to be so much more than that.


Red is the most important color for the Chinese New Year. You will see lanterns, signs, and clothing that are red during this season.
What locals do 
Often referred to as the “largest human migration on Earth”, Spring Festival is a time when millions of people living away from their families, head to their hometowns to spend time with their parents and grandparents. Many Chinese people move away from their smaller hometowns and villages to big cities in hopes of finding better job prospects and opportunities for success. Spring Festival offers them a chance to reconnect with their relatives and disconnect from their busy lives. 


Village life is slow and easy. I would highly recommend taking a trip to a small village and experiencing life there. Not only will you be a local celebrity but you will surely make lots of friends while you are there.


Just like the holiday season at home, Spring Festival is mainly spent eating, enjoying quality time with family, and did I mention eating? Also known as, Chinese Lunar New Year, around the world, Spring Festival is a time that people wish each other luck and good fortune. Today not as many people rely on harvests to sustain themselves, so money has become the main focus for the good wishes given to each other. The common saying at this time is gōng xǐ fā cái which loosely translates to: “I hope you will be rich.” In keeping with this theme, Chinese people gift each other hongbao, red envelopes, with money in them! 


A typical meal during Spring Festival time consists of several dishes and enough food to feed an army.


The hóngbāo culture has many rules and differs from province to province but some traditions seem to stay the same. A hóngbāo symbolizes a gesture of wishing the best, sharing happiness, and bringing good luck to those you love. Therefore, it is common for parents to give money to their children to express warmth, love, and care. At the same time, adult children often givehóngbāo to their parents or elderly relatives to express their respect and appreciation. A hóngbāo can be represented not only in the form of money but also in gifts, foods, or fruit baskets.


What foreigners do 
 Most years, foreigners take advantage of the national holiday and travel around the country or abroad at this time. It is a great opportunity to take time off and enjoy some rest and relaxation. Others take this time, create a tranquil space at home, and give themselves a much-deserved staycation. I personally like to take the first 2 days doing absolutely nothing at home but watching series and ordering waimai, take out, then, head to a beach somewhere to tan and let my worries melt away. 


Nothing beats getting away from it all and taking advantage of the holiday. i2 Education tries their best to give foreign and local staff a relaxing Spring Festival.


In previous years, I have also done Chinese New Year, a la chinoise, and gone home to visit my family. If you ever have the pleasure of being invited by a Chinese friend to their hometown for Spring Festival, say yes! There is no better opportunity to see true Chinese culture, traditions, and celebration than that. I was invited by my partner to the small village where they grew up and do not regret it at all. It was the most eye-opening and rewarding experience. I truly felt a part of Chinese culture and learned so much about Chinese traditions. Warning: if your Chinese partner invites you home for Spring Festival it is just as serious as taking someone home for the holidays. Their family expects to know when you will be getting married! 


This year i2 Education is encouraging all teachers to stay in their working city in order to keep everyone safe and avoid any Covid-related issues. So what can you do in your city? 


Here are our top Spring Festival from home ideas:

1. Host a themed movie night/games night

2. Have a picnic in the park

3. Have a spa day

4. Go for a massage

5. Have a themed dinner/potluck party

6. Scrapbook your life in China and past travels

7. Organize a socially distant house party with your family & friends (video chats)

8. Try a new restaurant in your city

9. Learn to cook a new dish and surprise your friends

10. Join the Chinese ladies dancing in a local square

11. Go for a hike or a long bike ride

12. Binge a new TV show

13. Organize a Zoom quiz night with your friends

14. Finish the book you’ve been meaning to finish or find a new one

15. Start your own blog

I hope that this has helped you gain better insight into what locals and foreigners do during Chinese New Year in China. Hopefully, this also gives you some ideas for what to do this year and stay safe! Get excited to join in on the largest celebration in the world! You won’t be disappointed.


By: Christian Lopez 

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