In recent years, Chinese New Year has become familiar even to foreigners. Foreigners know that on this day, some Asian countries will eat dumplings, hang lanterns, paste window grilles, set off fireworks and so on.

Indeed, these still exist. But as a festival with a history of thousands of years, it has changed a lot in modern times. Especially for young people, they are no longer satisfied with those purely traditional ways of celebrating festivals.

Therefore, I would like to introduce some of popular things that people will do during the Spring Festival in China in recent years.

1. Web Red Envelope

You may have heard that Chinese people give red envelopes to others during the Spring Festival. People put lucky money in red envelope and give it to children, employees and loved ones. This custom is slightly different in the north and south. In the north, only elders and relatives give red envelope to children. In the south, it is a gift from married people to unmarried people.

But in any case, although the custom still exists, it has been replaced by a more playful activity-snatching red envelopes in WeChat Group.

WeChat is the largest social media in China, with 1 billion daily active users, so few people is not its user. People usually join all kinds of group chats in their daily life and work, which can sometimes be an annoyance in daily life. For example, you may need to deal with managers from different suppliers in 50 group chats.

But on New Year’s Eve’s day, whoever has more group chats has a better chance of becoming the biggest winner. Because people will get used to randomly sending Red Envelope that need to be snatched to their chat groups on this day.

What WeChat red envelope looks like in a chat.

The operation mechanism of WeChat red envelope is that the sender puts some money (such as 200 yuan) in the virtual red envelope, and then sets how many individuals can get the money (such as 10 people). The person who sends the red envelope can chose two ways to allocate the money: one is that each person gets an average part of the lucky money (20 yuan), and the other is that each person gets a part of the lucky money at random (for example, one person only gets 1 yuan. And the other person gets 150 yuan).

Usually, when people give out red packets on Chinese New Year, they will set the way to receive lucky money randomly, which significantly increases the excitement of the game. In addition, people will not prepare a red envelope to every one in a 200 people chat group. Instead, they will send red envelope that only 20 people are allowed to open it.

This means that if 20 people have clicked on the red envelope before you, you will lose the chance to get lucky money.

This makes everyone keep holding their mobile phones in their hands and scroll the screen at any time on the night of the Spring Festival, so that they don’t want to miss any opportunity.·

There is also an unspoken rule that the person who gets the largest number of random lucky money should send another red envelope in the group, otherwise he will be regarded as a “miser”. It is usually the elders in the group who send red envelope first in the group. If it is a work group chat, then the boss must hand out red envelopes. In groups based on interests and small talk, people will ask the group owner to hand out red envelope first.

Starting in 2019, Wechat allowed corporate users to issue custom red envelope covers, triggering further viral marketing.

On January 28, 2014, a week before the Spring Festival of that year, WeChat launched this red envelope function. It has successfully rewritten the pattern of mobile payment in China. In order to send and receive red envelope, a large number of users bind their bank account and credit cards on WeChat. This makes Alipay, which previously had a dominant position in the mobile payment market, a loser in the market competition that year.

At the same time, to some extent, WeChat red envelope have made many Chinese who have never paid on the Internet realize for the first time that they can buy goods and services on the Internet.

We all know that Tencent and Alibaba are two irreconcilable competitors in the Chinese market. Alibaba took revenge two years later and created another new New year custom.

The business story behind this New year custom is more interesting.

2. Collect five characters of “happiness”

If you have Chinese friends, or have ever traveled to China after 2011. You should know that Chinese Internet companies have developed a very magical user habit in the Chinese market– letting users scan QR codes.

But starting in 2016, as the Spring Festival approaches, you may see Chinese people scanning Chinese characters on the street with their mobile phones.

This is an activity invented by Alibaba, another Chinese Internet giant, and it is called “collect five characters of ‘happiness’”.

It’s a bit like a Pokemon Go or Ingress, only operating during the Chinese year, and much simpler. What people need to do is turn on the camera in Alipay and point the camera at the surrounding Chinese character “福”(fú, happiness). Users will then be able to randomly get one of the five “happiness cards”.

Users must receive at least 1 card for each kind of happiness before New year’s Eve, then they can participate in the final lucky draw. Alipay usually gives hundreds of millions of yuan as a bonus, and the amount of bonus depends on how many people collect their happiness before the prize is opened.

This sounds like a very simple thing, but in fact most of the words scanned out are duplicate cards. The five kinds of blessing cards include “Strong and Rich Fu”, “Harmony Fu”, “Friendship Fu”, “Patriotic Fu” and “Dedication Fu”.

Among them, “dedication” is very rare, most people will get dozens of the first four kinds of happiness card, but until the end can not get “dedication” card.

Alipay initially launched this activity in order to obtain the user’s friend relationship data. Because in the process of participating in this activity, users will need to add friends to each other in order to exchange extra cards. Because of this activity, many people began to add their real-life friends to Alipay for the first time.

At first, this may just be Alibaba’s efforts to fight back against WeChat red envelope. But now, the custom seems to have been fixed, and every year before the Spring Festival, many Internet companies besides Alipay launch similar things, requiring users to scan specific things in their lives to get cards related to the Spring Festival.

In the last two years, Internet companies will also become sponsors of the Chinese Spring Festival Gala. The status of CCTV Spring Festival Gala in China is close to that of Super Bowl in the United States, which means that nearly 1 billion people will see an advertisement for an App on this day.

This year’s battle is between TikTok, Kwai and Baidu whose Logo currently says “carve up 2B”, “carve up 2.1B” and “crave up 2.2B”. That’s total $930 million, and the figure is still soaring.

In order to improve the effectiveness of advertising, they will also insert interactive links into the party. For example, follow the host’s countdown to enter a specific blessing to grab virtual red envelopes with hundreds of millions of people, and so on.

3. Great changes have taken place in New year’s goods

New year goods generally refer to the goods that Chinese people need to buy in advance in order to welcome the Spring Festival.

In ancient times, it usually revolved around the food, clothing, play and other things needed during the Spring Festival.

In modern times, especially after the reform and opening up, people need to prepare a lot less things in advance. Because even during the Spring Festival, you can buy what you need in the store without having to prepare in advance. But some customs still remain, such as wearing a new dress during the Spring Festival, eating a lot of candy and nuts, and preparing different special snacks in different parts of China.

But for young people who work far from home, their New year’s choice doesn’t seem to be “traditional” at all.

According to Alibaba’s e-commerce site Tmall, people born in the 1950s have now become the main force in buying New year’s goods. In addition to the traditional New year goods mentioned above, their shopping list has changed greatly from that of their parents.

In the list given by Tmall before the Spring Festival in 2021, semi-finished New year’s Eve dinner package, Pet New Year’s Clothes, Window Cleaning Robot, Freeze-Dried Powder Coffee Gift Boxes, horizontal bars on household doors, smart toilet seats and health wine are among the top 10 “New Style of New Year Products” which are loved by young people.

In addition, equipment such as floor-sweeping robot, dishwashers and noodle machines are also becoming goods that have seen a sharp rise in sales before the Spring Festival. This is likely to be young people far away from home, hoping that these gifts will reduce the burden of parents’ daily housework at home.

From this, we can see that the habits of Chinese consumers are changing significantly.

4. Travelling, not reunioning

The initial formation of the Spring Festival is to a large extent related to the cycle of farming.

During the Spring Festival each year, most parts of China are in the uncultivated season. In order to spend this period more happily, the ancient Chinese, who mainly focused on agricultural production, formed the Spring Festival.

But in modern times, most Chinese, especially those in cities, are no longer engaged in agricultural work. The Spring Festival has been preserved as a holiday for family reunion. But why do we have to be reunited during the Spring Festival?

Since 2015, the annual Spring Festival has become a new popular tourist season in China.

During the Spring Festival in 2017, China received a total of 344 million tourists, an increase of 13.8% over the same period last year, and total tourism revenue reached 423.3 billion yuan, an increase of 15.9% over the same period last year. By the Spring Festival in 2019, China had received 415 million tourists and achieved 513.9 billion yuan in tourism revenue.

This means that many Chinese people no longer reunite with their families during the Spring Festival holiday, or at least they no longer return to their hometown, but choose to travel with their children or families.

With the process of urbanization in China, some families in China are also getting smaller. When the oldest person in a big family gone, a super-large family covering several generations will gradually split into several small families, and they may no longer communicate frequently as a result of population migration.

This has also prompted some young people not to return to their hometown for the Spring Festival. Instead, they invite their parents from their hometown to the city where they work to celebrate the Spring Festival, or travel together.

As the Spring Festival holiday is not a classic popular tourist season in China, the cost of going to tourist cities in this season is far less than the National Day holiday and International Labour Day holiday.

Smart young Chinese begin to try to return to their hometown to reunite with their families during the National Day holiday or International Labour Day holiday, while using the Spring Festival holiday to travel.

This leads to a better travel experience and a lower cost.

5. New chat topics

Compared with the previous four changes, this New year custom is not so beautiful. It’s even painful to some extent, especially for young people.

You may have heard that most Chinese people still return to their hometown from the city where they work before the Spring Festival to be reunited with their relatives. Although they are related by blood, they do not usually live together and have different educational backgrounds, so the topic of conversation is often embarrassing.

Over the years, the topic of Chinese reunion has gradually focused on several topics that make young people feel painful. These questions are probably:

  • What kind of work do you do? What is the monthly salary?
  • When will you resign and take the civil service examination?
  • Do you have any boyfriend or girlfriend? When will you get married?
  • When will you have a baby? When will you have your second child?

If you are a young man born in a second-and third-tier city and working in a first-tier city, when you return to your hometown during the Spring Festival holiday. These questions will be asked repeatedly by countless people in just a few days. These people are often your elders, and they ask these questions out of concern for you, because they don’t know how to get along with young people or your usual way of life.

This has brought trouble to many young people.

A Shanghai choir even wrote a chorus in 2016 to satirize the incident. It was called “Spring Festival self-help Guide” and was forwarded hundreds of thousands of times on Sina Weibo.