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.

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:



Chinese Holidays Teaching at VIPKid

Is something happening in China? What is wrong with my bookings?

Today I have seen these questions repeatedly on the ESL groups I am in.  I will say, last night/this morning was the worst booking frenzy I have experienced so far.  I had only 3 bookings and 9 cancellations!  What is happening in China?

Well, this week is the beginning of the “winter holiday” for Spring Festival or Chinese New Year.  This is similar to the time our kids get off in December for Christmas.  They usually have a week or two of pretty intense exams leading up to this time (so you may have already seen lower bookings recently) and then they get a few weeks off.  This is a time when many Chinese families travel for family reunions.  I must say from the little bit of travel that I did in China in a non-holiday time, one thing you can expect is delays.  I’m sure that parents err on the side of caution and do not book any lessons for the days surrounding travel.  Also, who wants to be taking an English lesson when the whole family is gathered for a family reunion.

That being said.  I still have several classes and based upon my experience on other holidays, my students will show up for class.  I have been the “entertainment” of the hour for the whole family a few times, and often a cousin or a friend may join my student for the class.  While the general policy at VIPKid is to only teach one student for a class, I feel that this time of year is a bit of an exception.  Imagine the family is gathering and your student’s parent is boasting about the wonderful experience their child is having with your classes.  Wouldn’t it be reasonable for them to book a class so their family members can see what a wonderful experience it is?  I see this almost as a super-effective trial.  (I do make a note to the Learning Partner, but I teach the class as usual and try to make it extra fun in case the observer is considering signing up).

Will this affect my income?  Maybe.  But I don’t suggest that you have all your eggs in one income basket.  This is a great time to take some time off (sleep in!) and relax.  The students will be back!  You may need to plan your budget accordingly in order to make the numbers work, but don’t stress out.  Things will be back on track very soon.  I also have found that I can open short-notice slots (often in the evenings) and get bookings.  I think parents don’t book because they know they are traveling, but when they get where they are going they realize that their baobao could in fact have time for some English.  I don’t like to do short-notice in the morning as much (I fully take advantage of sleeping in the few days that I can), but I do open slots in the evening.  During the last holiday, I had several nights that were fully booked!

When I saw today that I had a couple of days with absolutely no bookings, I closed those slots and have officially declared them “vacation days”.  I doubt that I will travel as I have been traveling quite a bit recently, but maybe I will take a short trip to visit one of my friends or just simply enjoy sleeping in!  I will also spend some time in these next couple of weeks working on my other income streams to help build them a bit, and I probably will even add in a few extra Uber hours.

So the most important take-aways:

  •  Enjoy the break!  Sleep in and rest assured your baobaos will be back.
  • Plan your budget accordingly.
  • If you are looking for a perfect vacation time from ESL teaching in China, this is it.  (That being said, I don’t think there is any way I would attempt to travel in China during this holiday!)
  • Open up short notice slots (especially in the evenings).
  • Things will return to normal soon!  Your students will be back (and you can have lots of extension conversations about what they did over the holiday).