2013: Year Of The Snake

You may know how the timing of the Chinese New Year affects delivery of products imported from China, but do you know how it affects those who celebrate it?

February 10 marks the first day of the Chinese New Year—called Spring Festival by the Chinese and abbreviated CNY by many promotional products industry suppliers.

Regardless of what you call it, the festival throws a chink in the well-oiled promotional products machine. But for a holiday that affects so many of us, how much do we really know about it?

In existence at least as early as the 14th century B.C., the amount of folklore around the Chinese New Year is massive. It spans from a mythic beast that terrified villagers until they discovered it was afraid of fireworks, now central to many CNY celebrations, to the ritualistic cleansing of homes to oust bad luck and make room for good fortune.

For centuries, the Chinese calendar was based on a combination of lunar phases, solar solstices and equinoxes. The idea of yin and yang coupled with signs of the Chinese zodiac—or the animals associated with each year (2013 is the year of the snake)—also played into the calendar’s organization.

The Chinese were introduced to the West’s Gregorian-style calendar (the one we use today) as early as 1582, but it wasn’t used by the general population until 1912. Celebration of the traditional Chinese New Year continued, though, until 1949, when Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong forbade its celebration. The tradition was reinstated in 1996, when China declared official weeklong vacations for all to celebrate the holiday, which was renamed the Spring Festival.

Today, China’s New Year creates an influx of travel and mass transit usage within the country. Public transportation authorities increase routes starting 15 days before the holiday begins on the first day of the first month, and obtaining a ticket before seats fill up is an annual stressor for many Chinese trying to get home.

In December, the Associated Press reported that more train trips will be made in China during the five-day holiday than were made on Amtrak in the U.S. during 2012.

Once the Chinese reach their destinations, they present family members with gifts and money traditionally wrapped in red packages. Foods are selected for their real and representational abilities to bring wealth, happiness and good fortune, such as long noodles for a long life. Many dishes are prepared but left uneaten to signify surplus and abundance.

For entertainment, the Chinese watch the Spring Festival Gala—a nationally televised variety show with singing, dancing and magic shows.


>>Avoiding Chinese New Year Delays

Many travelers during Chinese New Year are migrant factory workers leaving China’s cities to visit family in rural provinces. This, as you well know, creates factory shutdowns and product delays.

Shelley Jeter, global sourcing specialist for Hixson, Tennessee-based supplier Gold Bond, Inc. (UPIC: GOLD0008), says staying in touch with factories is key to avoiding business slowdowns. “Not all factories are closed for the same period,” Jeter says. “This often gives us flexibility to select the best factory to produce our orders.

“We have the ability to split orders between two factories for faster production time,” she adds. “Pre-booking all sailings much earlier than normal is a strategy we use to minimize our exposure to shipping-lane congestion, which is a contributing factor to delivery time.” And of course, always be upfront with clients about possible delays due to the holiday.

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