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Chinese Culture Research Resources

Año Nuevo Chino

Durante los últimos años, he estado enseñando a estudiantes en China a hablar inglés. Como resultado, he aprendido más sobre su cultura. Una de las celebraciones más importantes es el Año Nuevo. A veces lo llamamos el Año Nuevo chino, pero el Año Nuevo Lunar es más exacto ya que se celebra en más lugares aparte de China. Además, muchas personas en China llaman a esta celebración Festival de Primavera, ya que celebra el final del invierno y la llegada de la primavera.

 

Una de las preguntas que siempre he tenido era porque los chinos celebran el Año Nuevo en un momento diferente que nosotros?. Dejame explicar. Aquí en los Estados Unidos (y en gran parte del mundo), basamos nuestro calendario en cuántos días le toma a la Tierra girar alrededor del sol. A esto lo llamamos Calendario Solar o Calendario Gregoriano. Nuestro año tiene una duración de 365 días (con un día adicional cada cuatro años en el ano bisiesto). El calendario tradicional chino (y varios otros países asiáticos) sigue el ciclo lunar. Su nuevo año comienza al final de cada 12 ciclos lunares (que es aproximadamente cada 354 días). Para mantener los calendarios más o menos iguales, las personas que usan un ciclo lunar agregan un mes para mantenerlo similar (más o menos como nuestro día extra en febrero en año bisiesto). Por lo tanto, la mayoría de China funciona con el mismo calendario que nosotros, pero sus días festivos se basan en los calendarios lunares tradicionales. Esto significa que la “fecha” en nuestro calendario no será la misma cada año. La mayoría de las veces, el año nuevo chino o lunar cae en enero o febrero. Además, cada año está dedicado a un animal específico del zodíaco chino. 2020 fue el año de la rata y 2021 es el año del toro. se ven estos animales en las decoraciones.

 

El Festival de Primavera o la celebración del Año Nuevo Lunar dura 15 días completos. Durante estos días es una de las pocas ocasiones en que la mayoría de los chinos obtienen unas vacaciones completas de 7 días. Los padres no tienen que presentarse a trabajar y los estudiantes tienen un descanso de sus estudios. Por tanto, muchas familias viajan durante este tiempo. Estos son algunos de los días de viaje más ocupados del año en China. Hay tradiciones específicas para cada día de la festividad, pero solo voy a cubrir algunas de ellas.

 

El primer día del festival, la familia normalmente se reúne para una gran fiesta. A menudo, la comida incluirá pescado y bolas de masa, entre otras cosas, ya que se consideran buena suerte. La familia normalmente vestirá y decorará la casa de rojo para traer suerte a la familia. Hay una celebración nacional transmitida por televisión (está registrada como el evento más visto en el mundo) que termina con fuegos artificiales a la medianoche.

 

Durante toda la celebración, hay danzas de leones o danzas de dragones. Se trata de grandes desfiles con un disfraz que lleva un equipo de personas que representan a un dragón o un león. A menudo “alimentan” a los animales hongbao (les contaré más sobre esto en un minuto) para que tengan buena suerte. Los fuegos artificiales se utilizan durante todo el festival para alejar a los monstruos.

 

Hongbao es otra tradición durante la celebración del Año Nuevo chino. Hongbao significa sobres rojos. Estos sobres generalmente se llenan con dinero (incluso se prefieren cantidades pares) y se entregan a miembros de la familia que no están casados, especialmente a los niños. Ahora, los Hongbao incluso están disponibles virtualmente para enviar sobres de la suerte a los amigos y familiares que viven lejos.

 

El último día de la celebración es el festival de los faroles. Durante este día, todo está decorado con lindos faroles y velas. Esta es una excelente manera de terminar la celebración.

 

Los principales valores que se celebran en el Año Nuevo Lunar son la buena suerte, la felicidad y la salud. Por supuesto, hay muchas tradiciones (como comer bolas de masa, vestirse de rojo y disparar fuegos artificiales) que se cree que traen cosas buenas a la familia o alejan las cosas malas. Este es un momento en que las familias se reúnen. Muchas familias regresarán a su ciudad natal durante estas vacaciones y pasarán tiempo con la familia extendida.

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Chinese Culture Research Resources

Chinese New Year

For the last few years, I have been teaching students in China to speak English.  As a result, I have learned more about their culture.  One of the most important celebrations is the New Year.  We often call it the Chinese New Year, but the Lunar New Year is more accurate as it is celebrated in more places than just China.  Also, many people in mainland China call this celebration Spring Festival as it celebrates the end of winter and the coming of spring.

 

One of the questions I have always had was how could the Chinese celebrate the New Year at a different time than we do.  Let me explain.  Here in the United States (and much of the world), we base our calendar on how many days it takes Earth to rotate around the sun.  We call this the Solar Calendar or the Gregorian Calendar.  Our year is 365 days long (with an extra day every four years on our leap year).  The traditional Chinese calendar (and several other Asian countries) follows the lunar cycle.  Their new year starts at the end of every 12 lunar cycles (which is just about every 354 days).  To keep the calendars more or less the same, the people who use a lunar cycle add a month on occasion to keep it similar (more or less like our extra day in February on leap year).  So, most of China functions using the same calendar as we do, but their holidays are based upon the traditional lunar calendars.  This means the “date” on our calendar will not be the same each year.  Most often the Chinese or Lunar New Year falls in either January or February.  Also, each year is dedicated to a specific animal of the Chinese zodiac.  2020 was the year of the rat, and 2021 is the year of the ox.  You will see these animals in the decorations.

 

Spring Festival or the Lunar New Year celebration lasts a full 15 days.  During these days is one of the few times that most Chinese get a full 7-day vacation.  Parents do not have to report to work and students get a break from their studies.  Therefore, many families travel during this time.  These are some of the busiest travel days of the year in China.  There are specific traditions for each day of the holiday, but I am just going to cover some of them.

 

On the first day of the festival, the family will typically get together for a huge feast.  Often, the meal will include fish and dumplings among other things as they are considered good luck.  The family will typically dress and decorate the house in red to bring luck to the family.  There is a national celebration broadcast on TV (it holds many records as the most-watched event) that ends with fireworks at midnight.

 

Throughout the celebration, there are lion dances or dragon dances.  These are huge parades with a costume worn by a team of people representing a dragon or a lion.  They often “feed” the animals hongbao (I’ll tell you more about this is in just a minute) for good luck.  Fireworks are used throughout the festival to scare off the monsters.

 

Hongbao is another tradition during the Chinese New Year celebration.  Hongbao means red envelopes.  These envelopes are usually filled with money (even amounts are preferred) and given to unmarried members of the family – especially the children.  Now, Hongbao are even available virtually to send lucky envelopes to your friends and family that live far away.

 

The final day of the celebration is the lantern festival.  During this day, everything is decorated with beautiful lanterns and candles.  This is a great way to end the celebration.

 

The main values celebrated in the Lunar New Year are good luck, happiness, and health.  Of course, there are many traditions (such as eating dumplings, wearing red, and shooting fireworks) that are thought to either bring good things to the family or keep bad things away.  This is a time when families gather.  Many families will return to their hometown during this vacation and spend time with the extended family. 

For more information click here.

Categories
Chinese Culture Chinese Holidays Holidays

What is Chinese New Year?

After teaching Chinese students for almost two years, I have learned a little bit about their culture.  Chinese New Year (also called Lunar New Year or Spring Festival) is a major part of their traditions.  This celebration lasts a whole 15 days and is one of the few times that most Chinese people get a vacation.

 

Read the article in English.

Read the article in Spanish.

Watch this video to learn more about Chinese New Year.

If you’d like an extra challenge, watch it in Spanish:

 

 

Categories
Chinese Culture VIPKid China Field Trip

Extreme Bargaining in China

Bargaining in China is an expected part of your shopping experience.  While I have visited other cultures, they did not seem as extreme as what I experienced in China.  So be prepared for a very unique experience.  We had a few minutes at the famous Pearl Market in Beijing to do some shopping.  There were many stores offering “high-quality reproduction” handbags and sneakers.  I was not really interested in shopping much as I was on a very tight budget, but I did watch some of our fellow travelers make deals.

We did see some building block sets (think Lego) that were very interesting.  There were sets that haven’t been made by Lego and not in their licensing.  There was one particular set that caught my son’s eye.  It was a book built of Lego and when you opened it, there were probably 40 or so Iron Man minifigures.  My son really likes to collect minifigs and customize them so this was right up his alley even if they weren’t legit Lego.  We had a quick discussion and decided that they weren’t in the budget and we didn’t have enough room in our luggage to get it home (besides the questionable quality of building blocks that aren’t actually Lego).  Just for the fun of it though, I asked the price to see how it compared to a Lego set at home.  I don’t remember the exact price, but it was about 1900 CNY (about $275 US dollars).  I really was just curious and did not want to haggle as we were not trying to carry this thing around all day.  I thought I’d throw the salesperson off and told her we were only able to spend 200 CNY….so no, thank you.  She lowered the price to 1000, then 800, then just for us she would do 500.  I kept trying to be polite and tell her we weren’t interested, then she said she’d give it to us for 250.  As we were walking away, I heard her say 150 (about $22 USD).  I don’t know the exact exchange rates for all those numbers, but that was a HUGE drop in price.  I don’t think the ladies with the purses were that extreme, but it gave me a new strategy for bargaining.  I throw out the lowest low-ball offer possible and see where they land.  As an online seller, this just goes against my morals, but I found that it was near impossible to find a reasonable price otherwise.

Some of our friends purchased other items.  I saw them literally being dragged across the aisle to a different stand.  And if you let them put a hand on your arm to direct you, watch out!  They would not let go.  In general, the store attendants will pull out a calculator and show you a price and often calculate the US dollar conversion.  These calculations rarely were the same as my conversion app on my phone.   Of course, they always let you know that you can use your credit card.  One friend was giving advice to another and the lady thought she was convincing her to not buy the handbag, so she shooed the first friend out of the area.  Of course, when we all got on the bus and compared prices some of us had gotten great deals while others were taken advantage of.  I generally keep my head down and walk quickly in these kinds of shopping malls, but that doesn’t work in China.  The salespeople would still approach very aggressively.  While I did buy a few souvenir items from a quieter salesperson, I felt like it was a battle to leave the store.  My son and I gave up quickly and went to sit out on the front steps while our group reassembled.  This kind of shopping is not for me!

Some stores are not into bargaining.  Typically, they have the prices clearly marked on the shelves or on the products themselves.  If you see price tags, then it is probably safe to say that the store does not typically haggle over their prices.  You might still ask for a slight discount at the register (especially if you buy a number of items), but generally, the price is what is marked.  I much prefer these stores.

This being said, the tour arranged with the VIPKid Field Trip is not really a tour that accommodates shopping.  There were a few occasions that we were given a certain amount of free time and we could find shopping opportunities if we wanted.  Many of the travelers arranged shopping time in the evenings on their own.

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Chinese Culture VIPKid China Field Trip

Tipping in China

For the most part, gratuity is not accepted in China.  Our tour guide explained to us that she had seen Americans leave a tip at the lunch table, and the waiter chased them down the street to give back their money.  It is not culturally acceptable to give a tip for service.  If you had amazing service, you might tell your server that you would like to give him or her something extra, but don’t be surprised if they refuse it.  During our trip, we arranged a massage.  The price of the massage had already included a generous tip.  I also noticed that when taking taxis, the drivers did not give me back the correct change.  Therefore, I just took that “mistake” as their tip.  I did not have the language skills to make sure I got the correct change, and it was usually an amount that I would have considered a good tip.

If you are going on one of the VIPKid Field Trips, you will have a tip that you will need to budget for the tour guides and the bus driver.  You will get information about this before you leave.  (Ours was about 450 CNY  which is around $65 US.)  We had one person that was chosen to collect all the tips from the travelers and divide them out to the tour guides and the drivers.  Just be prepared as this is an “extra” budget item you will need.