Chinese New Year: The Fall of Tradition in 2020

It came and went with far less fanfare and worldwide celebration that we have ever seen before. CORVID-19 has taken a heavy toll, and not least upon the revelry that this period of the year brings to those celebrating the traditions of Chinese New Year. Also known as Lunar New Year, it is the largest and most significant traditional event for every Chinese person. Family reunions, replacing the old with the new, decorating houses with red, traditional scrolls, red “blessing” papers, giving out red packets and more, all carry hopes and longings of better future and well-beings for a brand new year.

Image taken from “Language Tips”

As families and friends gather together for Chinese New Year, there is an increasing sensation that “Chinese New Year is getting more and more boring” and “I don’t feel the same atmosphere as I feel before”…. Normally, as citizens’ standards of living rise, the environment of New Year should become more and more enriched with traditional atmosphere, however, the reality is the opposite. Is it the “New Year” that is changing, or is it the people who are changing?

The Rise of Standards of Living

In the memories of people born prior to 90s, Chinese New Year was not “boring” like this, instead, it was full of joy and expectations. People were able to eat meat at Chinese New Year, which they would be yearn for throughout the whole year. At that time, no matter it were people in rural area who were still starving or citizens in urban areas who were just able to feed themselves, everyone was waiting for that day. Obviously, a thing is valued if it is rare. When we are able to enjoy the same quality of things in our daily lives, the annual feast during Chinese New Year seems less significant.

Image taken from CCTV.com

Urbanization

One of the representative activities during Chinese New Year is setting off firecrackers. With the lively sound of firecrackers, exciting atmosphere of new year is starting to rise. However, recently, during air pollution, physical and public safety, banning firecrackers and fireworks is becoming a normality. Although it is better to ban firecrackers for people’s health and safety, people have to admit that liveliness is dying along with the vanishment of firecrackers that signal the start of a new year. 

Image taken from ip.com

Furthermore, with the emergence of urban apartments, local new year activities such as lion dance, stilts are slowly diminishing among citizens since they were inconvenient to perform in cities, thus deserting festive atmosphere.

Image taken from tripsavvy

The Prevalence of Technology

With the emergence of urbanization comes along the increasing prevalence of technology use. Not only during Chinese New Year, everyone’s daily life is  filled with the existence of technology. Many people prefer to go on phones more instead of having conversations with families and friends. Recent years in China, WeChat Pay is taking over cash or even credit card. “Grabbing red packet” on WeChat becomes almost every young and middle-age people’s favorite activity. Not only on WeChat, Taobao, Alipay, Tencent and more apps all provide the opportunity for people to get red packets through phone. The annual CCTV New Year’s Gala that every family would gather to watch soon became a “background music” that people would listen to when they are trying to grab more red packets on phones. 

“Getting red packets on WeChat”, Image taken from “FengHuang Net”

Maybe everyone has different memories and feelings for different eras. During the years of starvation and lack of resources, Chinese New Year in people’s minds meant buying new clothes, having a rare feast, visiting families and giving warmths. But now more people are unwilling to visit every families. Those visits in past years could express true feelings out of genuine friendships and kinships, but now, with a click on the phone, sending text messages and red packets could count as a completion of mission. 

Even though traditional customs and atmosphere is indeed vanishing every year, Chinese New Year will forever has moments of excitement and happiness. Even though everyone is always complaining the lack of freshness and excitement in New Year, everyone would rush back to their hometown to gather with their families; Even though everyone is complaining the boredom of CCTV New Year’s Gala, almost everyone would automatically turn on their television on time, although it might only be a background music.

It does not matter if the atmosphere of New Year is vanishing, the importance of family reunion would overwhelm people’s complaints. Home and family will forever be our shelter.  Unfortunately, is is also this most important element of the New Year celebrations that seemed to be quarantined this year with the travel restrictions imposed upon a society stricken with the Novel Corona Virus.

Let’s hope that next year our longing for all things traditional will be back in full force.

Author: Christine(Qiao) Li

Christine (Qiao) Li is currently a senior and this is her first year working for The Eye. She is from China and spent most of her childhood there, but came to Singapore several years ago. In her freetime, she likes to get involved in music and arts, listen to music and drink bubble tea. She can be contacted at li48695@sas.edu.sg.

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