Each year, the whole of China grinds to a halt as people dutifully throw down their pens and cease work for a little more than a week. Why? To effectively celebrate the soon passing year and pray for nearly impossible success in the coming year.
With Chinese New Year rapidly approaching, let’s make sure you know all the basics of the holiday. Plenty of vacation days are coming your way, so if you planned to go on a trip somewhere, you better book fast and don’t forget to pick up a box of valium. You’re going to need it.
Foreboding as it seems, don’t be alarmed. As long as you follow our guide, you’re going to be just fine this holiday season.
1. Get stampeded
Part of the fun in traveling during CNY is fighting off the unimaginable hordes of people that also saw the holiday as a great moment to get away. Known as Chunyun, this period marks the largest annual human migration in the world. With hundreds of millions—a larger number than the entire population of the USA—either heading home or going to Thailand, there’s sure to be some cutting in lines. Be vigiliant.
2. Experience a modern ghost town
Practically everything except Meiyijia will be closed during these few days. There’s even a rumor that all taxi drivers in the city will simply leave their keys in the ignitions if you really need a ride somewhere, but where would you go? All your friends already left.
This is the perfect time to do all those things you’ve wanted, but couldn’t because of the people and cars always in the way. Now’s your chance to try walking (left foot, right foot, repeat) or enjoying the outer towns without the incessant factory din.
3. Finally learn how to cook
Since everything is closed, restaurant owners also need to shut, as they might be fined by the authorities if they continue to operate. It’s not commonly known, but CNY originally began as a government initiative to force people into the kitchen (you know, that room with the fire and cold box). That’s right, and frozen pizza won’t work because you don’t have an oven. I did once make use of my dish drying and sterilizing machine, though, with moderate success.
4. Second chance resolutions
As the Gregorian calendar’s New Year has become quite globally ubiquitous, you’ll be happy to know that once you made a resolution for this and naturally fail, you’ll have another shot to get it right one month later. This is the perfect opportunity to assess where you went wrong, recalculate your strategy and find more effective tools to make this go around a success. Wait, you’re not talking about murder, are you?
5. CAN buy you love
Every mother starts proclaiming that money can’t buy happiness right around the same time as your best friend got a BMW for their 16th (18th for the rest of the world) birthday and your parents got you a $50 gift card to “buy some CDs you like.”
Nearing the stroke of midnight head to Qifeng Mountain to pray for good luck and also possibly that some people leave soon, so you can get closer to the edge for a better view. There will also be roughly 100,000 people there, so expect at least 200,000 cars. It’d be better to walk or bike if you can.
Now you can tell mom that on CNY, merely giving a small, red envelope filled with money gets you at least a few months of people doing everything you say. Here’s a free tip: give half the hongbao money upfront, and half, say, in six months to maximize the positive treatment you are to receive.
By the way, CNY is one day when it literally pays to be single. That 2-year relationship has gone on long enough. It’s time to get paid.
6. Watch the sky go boom
China produces roughly 90% of the world’s fireworks, so imagine the kind of mobilization possible for the most important day of the country’s year. The explosions are said to scare away demons and evil spirits, but they usually mostly end up scaring cats and dogs across the city. CNY also marks the time when the most amount of pet urine is found.
7. Celebrate with 20% of the world’s population
With more than a billion people participating every year, you’ve never been to a party this big. You might mention the standard New Year parties as larger. Nope, the other parties never collectively top CNY because of all the different time zones (China enjoys one time, Beijing time).
8. Enjoy a slice of guilt-free hedonism
According to tradition, CNY is one day where you are supposed to eat to that moment where either your insides are on the verge of bursting or it’s all coming back up. To increase your luck for the coming year, try eating fish, dumplings, spring rolls, Tangyuan (sweet rice balls), fruits, Niangao (rice cake), longevity noodles and McDonalds. Wait, what? Well, as long as we’re eating, we might as well stimulate the global economy a bit.
9. Pick up a year’s worth of undergarments
Being aware of your benming nian, or the re-meeting of one’s zodiac year, is just common sense. If you were born in the year of the cock, prepare for the worst by heading out to the shop to buy a year’s worth of red underwear. This is a perfect solution, since most people won’t know it’s your birth year and can’t guess your age. Plus, they won’t brand you as a potential witch who believes in sorcery.
If anyone needs a hand-me-down, I have an extra set from my year. They’re a little ratty, but they’ll do in a pinch.
10. Take a hike (up to the lantern), buddy!
If you’ve become jaded by the usual party poppers and champagne shtick year after year, take advantage of Dongguan’s special monument to do something different. Nearing the stroke of midnight head to Qifeng Mountain to pray for good luck and also possibly that some people leave soon, so you can get closer to the edge for a better view. There will also be roughly 100,000 people there, so expect at least 200,000 cars. It’d be better to walk or bike if you can.