Today is the first day of the lunar Chinese New Year. For all the Chinese around the world, regardless they are in China, Singapore or in the States, this festival means a lot to us.
If you are working with a Chinese colleague, I encourage you to wish him or her Gong Xi Fa Cai which loosely translates as “Congrats and may fortune bestow upon you”. You may be also surprised (or frustrated if you are covering for the colleague) that he is taking almost his entire paid leave to celebrate this festival. You see, it is traditionally run from the evening preceding the first day, to the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first calendar month. In China, it is a public holiday for 7 days straight. In fact, a lot of the companies will close for 15 days. Watch out if you are dealing with businesses in China – they might go MIA (missing in action) on you.
This holiday is equivalent to what Christmas is to westerners. A long waited holiday where families get together under one roof to celebrate the beginning of spring hence Chinese New Year is also known as Spring Festival.
The Chinese in China queuing up to take the railway trains back to their hometown. Most of the Chinese relocate themselves from poorer districts to major cities to find much better-paying jobs to send money back home to their families.
For many who take our spouses and family for granted, I have heard way too many stories that partners are working separately in two different cities and their only child back in hometown, taken care by their grandparents who usually farmers. This means Chinese New Year is the only time the wife gets to see the husband, the parent gets to hold their child. I can’t imagine only seeing my daughter and my husband once a year!!
This also opens up the black market for train and air tickets into exorbitant prices that government tried very hard to control but to no avail, because the demand outweighs the supply. When I was working in Shanghai (one of the major cities in China), it is heartbreaking to see my colleagues break down when they are unable to secure a ticket back home during this period. Sometimes, they are even willing to rent a car and drive for 3 days just to get home in time to wish their elderly parents good health. Kudos to their perseverance and their determination.
So please be kind and tolerance to the Chinese colleagues when they take time away this Chinese New Year so that they can go back home and enjoy a family reunion with their loved ones.
To my fellow Chinese folks, 新年快乐 恭喜发财 红包拿来!
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