Thanks to the press and social media, we’ve been lucky enough to witness Chinese New Year celebrations taking place throughout the world over the last two weeks. Some of us have even had the good fortune to be truly immersed in the cultural experience by witnessing or taking part in these events first-hand.
Regardless of how we’ve seen Chinese New Year celebrations unravel, it’s safe to say that live events — whether it is a street parade in a global city or local town, a brand experience, or an incentive event for employees — are central to this important cultural tradition.
As Chinese communities, event organisers, and corporate marketers across the globe gear up for the Lantern Festival, the final event of the two-week celebration, Carrie Tsoi, marketing director at FreemanXP APAC, and Celine Jean, account director at FreemanXP in EMEA (who has seven years of experience delivering events in China), share their insight into the celebration.
A New Season, A Fresh Start
Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, marks the end of winter. The celebration begins on the first day of the first month on the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, and it ends on the 15th day with the Lantern Festival. The Lantern Festival falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month, which marks the first full moon after the Spring Festival and of the New Year, also known as “first night of the full moon.”
Chinese New Year is celebrated in countries and territories with significant Chinese populations — it is a family reunion, much like Thanksgiving, where people travel for miles to meet and greet together.
The lunar calendar follows a 12-year pattern, and each year represents a different animal. Chinese New Year is synonymous with family gatherings, red decorations, fireworks, firecrackers, gifts to wish one another good fortune for the new year, and the iconic red envelope, which contains money and is typically given to children by their parents or grandparents. This tradition is now even on Chinese social network WeChat, where users can send money to friends and family virtually.
Embracing Events to Mark the Occasion
Most of the big cities in mainland China don’t have official celebrations — the parades that we see all over the world don’t tend to happen there. Most companies do, however, host a Chinese New Year dinner for their employees, and they often call on event agencies to support them in these endeavours. Often employees are invited to prepare a show within their department, and they are generally rewarded with a red envelope or lucky draw.
As China is a vast country with a long history and diverse cultures, customs and activities vary regionally. For the Lantern Festival, the most important and prevalent customs are floating and flying lanterns, guessing lantern riddles, eating round dumplings in soup — these have a symbolic meaning as a reunion for loved ones — and lion dances.
The Trend Towards Immersive Experiences
The Chinese Lantern Festival is about celebrating and cultivating positive relationships between people, families, nature, and the higher beings, as they are believed to be responsible for bringing and returning the light each year.
Internationally and in Asia, brands and organisations use the Lantern Festival tradition to deliver live experiences, such as the Chinese Lantern Festival in England and the Taiwan Pingxi Lantern Festival. In Hong Kong, the Sprint Lantern Festival is also known as Hong Kong’s Valentine’s Day, and sees singles attend with their own lantern in the hope of meeting their perfect match.
Brands that sell fast-moving consumer goods also tend to leverage the festival to promote their products to families. Some of our clients, such as Changi Airport in Singapore, have created intricate Chinese New Year installations through their terminals.
If you're planning a trip to London between now and 26 February, we recommend you visit the Magical Lantern Festival at Chiswick House Gardens, an immersive experience complete with virtual reality and colourful lanterns of all shapes and sizes.