Monica Or, columnist and Hospitality Consultant at Star Quality Hospitality Consultancy discusses how to be hospitable and not to ‘lose face’ as the Chinese New Year approaches..
It has only been a few weeks since we watched the fireworks and we raised a glass of Champagne to celebrate the New Year. Resolutions have been made and broken as we experienced ‘Blue Monday’ and now it is time to get on with the day to day business of hospitality. Although for some the New Year celebrations are just about to start.
When working in hospitality not only do we need to be aware of our own traditions but also that of other cultures. The Chinese New Year is the first day of the Chinese Lunar Calender and will fall between 21st January and 20th February. This year it will be celebrated on the 28th January 2017 and according to the Chinese zodiac it is the Year of the Rooster.
Although when celebrating the Chinese New Year it is not just a one day celebration, it can go on for seven days, although only the first 3 days are official statutory holidays in China. The Chinese New Year is seen as a time for preparation and goes back to the days when many were farmers. Sometimes it is referred to as ‘Spring Festival’ as this is the start of the farming calender.
This has now evolved into celebrating the start of a new business year and wishing for profits and success in various vocations.
Facts about Chinese New Year traditions:
– The Chinese will eat dumplings on New Year’s Eve as they are the shape of old gold and silver ingots (an ancient currency) and they believe this will bring prosperity
– Fire crackers are set off to express happiness and invite good luck. Fire crackers are red as this is the colour of luck.
– ‘Lucky money’ is given in red envelopes as a way of giving good wishes as well as a financial present
– The performing of Dragon and Lion dances is a way to pray for good luck and drive away evil spirits.
In recent years, it has become popular among young people to send ‘red envelopes’ (an online money transfer with a colorful message) via WeChat (a messaging app) as a greeting. It has become a new way to greet friends or relatives during the Chinese New Year period.
The Chinese are very superstitious in their traditions and so gifts to avoid during Chinese New Year include sharp objects, anything associated with the number 4, shoes, handkerchiefs, clocks, pears, cut flowers, umbrellas, black or white objects and mirrors.
Wrapping gifts in red, yellow or gold symbolizes wealth and prosperity. Appropriate gifts include tea, fruits, alcohol and tobacco. For the older generation clothes, and for children school supplies, toys and books.
Gifts should be given to the older generation first. When received gifts should not be opened in front of the giver but put aside to be opened in private.
So in the coming weeks when you are welcoming your Chinese visitors, knowing these traditions could ensure you don’t ‘lose face.’