Blog of Justin Cheuk, home to writing on London, Hong Kong, Studying Abroad, Trains and Travels.

Chinese New Year is Just Like Christmas, But Better

Here from When HK meets UK I wish every reader a brilliant Chinese New Year (*a.k.a Lunar New Year, my preferred name).

I present to you why Chinese New Year is just like Christmas, only it’s better.

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Just like Christmas (and Thanksgiving), Chinese New Year is a major homecoming event. However, CNY is better because it is also New Year: with parades and fireworks all rolled into one giant festival.

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Hong Kong CNY fireworks. From SCMP website.

Just like Christmas, there are also custom-made CNY films that play on the cliche and celebrate the coming together of the family. However, CNY films are better because those cliched characters ALWAYS win the lottery or something and end up filthy rich.

Just like Christmas, you buy festive clothing beforehand in preparation. However, CNY is better because rather than *just* a Christmas jumper, by custom you ought to buy NEW CLOTHES FROM HEAD TO TOE. Your grandma WILL nag you about it.

Just like Christmas, you go to a fair to do all your festive shopping in one go. However, CNY is better because (at least in Hong Kong) these fairs also represent the pinnacle of local designs, political/social in-jokes and general teenage shenanigans. I bet they sell hoverbands this year.

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Picking tangerines. From Huffington post.

Just like Christmas, you purchase plants to decorate the house. However, CNY is better because you won’t cut the bloody tree off! Usually, you’ll have plum trees or tangerines. I once managed to keep my bamboo pot for well over a decade.

Just like Christmas, CNY is a bank holiday and everything shuts on the first day, where the deserted city centre closely resembles a scene from 28 days later. However, CNY is better because in Hong Kong you get at least 3 consecutive days off and that extends to the whole week in Taiwan!

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Taiwan’s holiday schedule this month. Screenshot via timeanddate.com

Just like Christmas, businesses used to shut for longer during CNY, but has now given in to commercialism and tend to open on the second day. However, CNY is better because it is socially acceptable and remains the business norm to take at least 3 days off.

Just like Christmas, nobody is at work for most of the week anyway. However, CNY is better because trains run throughout the festive period. Suck that Network Rail.

Just like Christmas, you go on holiday in order to avoid doing festive things. However, CNY is better because (as of now) it’s much easier to avoid CNY than Christmas abroad. I don’t think they celebrate CNY in rural Wales.

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Then, of course, there is Kung Hei Fat Choi. ALL THE MONEY.

Just like Christmas, the standard CNY greeting relates to happiness during the festivities (Merry Christmas/Happy New Year). However, CNY is better because rather than arguing about religion and using the blandest phrase known to man “Season’s Greetings”, you can tailor-made your own CNY greetings by selecting (basically) any 4-character phrases. How about an uncontroversial 身體健康 “Be healthy”? Alternatively, greet your aunt with 青春常駐 “Always stay young and beautiful”. She’ll love it.

Just like Christmas, adults often exchange gifts. However, CNY is better: since the list of tabooed items is about as long as the circumference of the earth, there is no shame in buying the most generic gifts ever. Exhibit A: Danish cookies that are, surprisingly, not from Denmark.

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For unknown reasons, the no.1 gift for CNY in HK.

Just like Christmas, you bring gifts for the younger generation. However, CNY is better because the norm is to give cash. No awkward “Oh I love this” from your aunt, and no need to dash to the charity shop the week after and risk bumping into her.

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Just like Christmas, you always end up asking your aunts or gran for money. However, CNY is better because the custom states that you are officially allowed – nay, mandated – to ask overtly and that any married relatives cannot reject you. Or else it’s bad luck.

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Candy Box. Where all the goodies are.

Just like Christmas, CNY is the opportunity for children to indulge in sweets and chocolate. However, CNY is better because 1. you don’t even bother with the “milk for Santa” thing and 2. the sweets are definitely in the candy box.

Just like Christmas, there is a reunion dinner that works almost like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners. However, CNY is better because nobody forces you to eat turkey. It’s quite difficult to be gluten-free, though.

Just like Christmas, you will visit your cousins or some other distant family, and an argument will break out when your parents inevitably compare your behaviour with somebody else’s children. However, CNY is better because you are usually at that somebody else’s house. So either it is actually inconvenient for you to help, or (worse case scenario) after all the shouting you won’t see that cousin again for the rest of the year.

Just like Christmas, when you see those relatives you will inevitably forget some of their names. However, CNY is better because the Chinese naming system for relatives is so insanely complicated anyway that nobody would bat an eyelid if you got it wrong.

Just like Christmas, those relatives will ask you awkward questions: how old are you and what grade you’re in at school if you look about 10; and WHEN ARE YOU GETTING MARRIED after you’re 16. However, CNY is better because… actually CNY isn’t any better. There is no getting away from this hellhole either way.

Just like Christmas, you’ll probably get fed up with your family by the third day. However, CNY is better because it takes that into account and mandates that nobody visits each other on that 3rd day. Time for some peace and quiet of your own.

Just like Christmas, you stick decorations on the wall and the mantlepiece. However, CNY is better because there is no requirement to take them down by Epiphany. It’s socially acceptable to be lazy and leave them up for months.

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This is one romantic scene. From event-carnival.com.

Just like Christmas, CNY is actually a much longer celebration that lasts for 15 days, until the Lantern Festival. However, CNY is better because the Lantern Festival doubles as a Valentines Day. It’s a date magnet. Epiphany pales in comparison. I mean, just look at that.

Just like Christmas, you look forward to all the festivities like it’s your birthday. However, CNY is better because it technically is also your birthday. Legend has it that on the 7th day of the new year God created humans (notice a different pace) and so it’s a universal birthday for EVERYBODY.

Just like Christmas, CNY is a wonderful celebration for all. However, CNY is better because it is ANOTHER WONDERFUL CELEBRATION FOR ALL.

Happy Chinese New Year!

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