China Foundations Spring Festival Info Guide


yangnianOfficial Dates

Info Links


Travel Tickets

Vendor Hours of Operation

Service/Delivery Delays

Managing your ayi and driver

Rules for the Red Envelope


Official Dates

Spring Festival begins with the Chinese New Year and ends the night of the Lantern Festival.


According to the lunar calendar, Chinese New YearThe official public holiday is Feb. 19th – Feb. 25th.

Lantern Festival is observed on Mar. 5th. There is no official day off, but it is also widely celebrated and many companies may work a ½ day or have modified hours.


Info Links

Chinese Holiday Dates for 2015 (dates subject to change)

Chinese New Year and Zodiac

Year of the Sheep Horoscope

Lantern Festival


Spring Festival Safety

Transportation officials estimate that China’s 1.3 billion people will take an average of three trips each by rail, air, and road over the 40 day period that marks the holiday, for a record total of 2.80 billion trips (link in Chinese). That’s 100 million more trips than last year.

During this period, incidents of petty crime (usually pick pocketing) and other such incidents are more common.

Make sure your valuables are in a safe place

  • Keep your belongings in eyesight and within arm’s reach in front of you.
  • Broken car windows are extremely common. Items kept in a car should be taken out when unattended, put in the trunk or hidden well.
  • Be aware of large groups of tightly packed people, i.e. public transportation, stations, lines, entrances and exits to buildings, etc. Supermarket or mall entrances with winter weather curtains are often places where crimes occur.

If you are a victim of pick pocketing and are aware of the thief, DO NOT MAKE PHYSICAL CONTACT AS THEY NORMALLY WORK IN GROUPS. If they feel threatened, violence is possible although not probable. Just confront and acknowledge that you are aware of the robbery and ask for the item or items back. Be persistent but not threatening. Thieves have been known to return items in the past.

Consider keeping a copy of your passport on your person (not in a purse, bag or wallet) in case of any emergency.

Make sure your home is well-protected if you plan on being away. Lock all the doors and windows. If possible, have

someone (a friend or ayi) check in on your apartment consistently. Internal water pipes are known to have problems in cold weather climates. Unplug all electrical devices including water heaters and turn off gas stove mains.

Watch out for firecrackers/fireworks on the road and coming from the sky. Often times they are tossed out of windows. Also keep windows closed in case of airborne fireworks and be aware of air and noise pollution. ALWAYS keep a safe distance from firecrackers and fireworks.


Travel Tickets

Trains: You MUST provide your passport to any agencies or ticket offices to buy train tickets. This is the busy season for transportation and normally, the earliest train tickets can be reserved is 60 days in advance.

Domestic plane tickets: Tickets are normally full price with very few discounts available.

International flight tickets: Tickets may be discounted from as early as 2 weeks before to 2 weeks after the holiday, and especially within the official holiday dates. Look for discounted fares to other Southeast Asian countries originating from Chinese cities like Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

Plane tickets can be purchased on: (English and Chinese), (Chinese only), (English and Chinese), (Chinese only, for train tickets)


Vendor Holiday Hours (times subject to change)

  • Small retail shops and restaurants – May close for long periods, but many major retail businesses will remain open
  • Supermarkets and shopping malls – Open as usual
  • Hotels and restaurants – Open as usual
  • Movie theatres – Open as usual

(Expect modified holiday hours on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day)


Vendor/ Service provider delays and price changes

During the holiday season, factories may stop production, small stores may close, and ayis and drivers may return to their hometown to reunite with their families. It is very common for Chinese to save their paid vacation days for Spring Festival. This includes government agency workers. If you have to deal with any government agencies such as visas and customs, be prepared for 1-2 week delays before and after spring festival holidays. This also may pertain to other private industries depending on the company.

This is the heaviest shipping season of the year so expect delays of at least 2 – 4 days.

During CNY, Taxi drivers may ask for a higher price in tier 2 or smaller cities. Starting prices may increase 2-10 RMB more from the original price. It is normal for locals to pay the price increase. Prices can be negotiated as well. Tier 1 cities may not experience this price increase.


Managing your ayi and driver

Remember, it is very common for Chinese to save their paid vacation days for Spring Festival so expect your staff to take extended vacation. Try to be as generous with vacation time as you can. Please consider New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and surrounding days as time off for your drivers and ayis. Ayis and drivers may both volunteer to work, but remember the context and what they are “SUPPOSED” to do.

It is beneficial to act as an “ALL KNOWING” boss so consider their family situations and give them time off if you can spare it. During this time, your ayi and driver should have paid days off, just like your holidays in your home country. Hourly wage workers may get paid holiday wages on holidays, but many may rather spend time with their families. In China, locals may only get 2 opportunities to see their spouses, kids, parents, families a year, but normally it comes down to only Chinese New Year. Research and ask questions about their family situation this holiday and feel free to use 3rd parties. Find out if your employee will travel to see relatives or if relatives and friends will be visiting them. Balance your decisions and consider all of the info you are given to help them also enjoy their most important holiday of the year.


Rules for the Red Envelope

Foreigners are not expected to be completely familiar with the tradition of giving “hong bao”, but displaying more knowledge may show that you are more interested and care for your staff.


Things to remember about “hong bao”…

  • Hong bao is money presented in a red envelope
  • Hong bao is an opportunity to show care for the relationships around you. This is the most significant opportunity of the year.
  • Traditionally, hong bao is not the same as a western bonus although cities/companies with large western influence may have significantly affected the original tradition.
    • Precedence has been set as 1 month salary in many of these cities/companies
    • This amount does not reflect traditional giving so please be aware if precedence has been set
  • Amount of money is based on “Relationship/Closeness”
  • Your employee’s time of service should be considered, but how you choose to maintain the relationship is most important when giving hong bao.
  • THIS IS NOT THE ONLY TIME TO GIVE, so the amount you give isn’t the most important thing. If you really care for your ayi/driver, you can do things to show you appreciate them throughout the year. How you maintain the relationship over time is most important. It doesn’t all depend on one holiday.

Remember: Do you want an expensive gift from a friend once a year, or prefer to meet up for drinks or even a phone call once a month? Communicating you care over time is more valuable than just showing up once a year.


Why is hong bao given?

  • To show that you care for the relationship in the coming year
  • To settle debts that haven’t been paid back
  • To provide for the receiver’s younger generations


Is there protocol for giving hong bao?

  • Traditionally It is not given to the same generation but from older to younger
  • Parents to children, Grandparents to unmarried children (Singles will normally receive hong bao until they are married),Grandparents to grandchildren
  • Should be given in private so as to not make others feel uncomfortable. Remember, in China it is safe to consider feelings first. It can seem weird to give a gift to only 1 person in a group.
  • There’s no need to write anything on the envelope
  • When hong bao is refused, which it may be depending on how traditional the receiver is, use an explanation or excuse, “Please accept this to buy something for your parents/children for the New Year”. This kind of explanation makes it easier for the receiver to accept, by allowing them to appear modest and caring of their priorities.
  • Should be given before Chinese New Year’s Eve, Feb.18th, 2014
  • Chinese will also give to their work group collectively. Chocolate, wine, candy, fruit are ok. Buying something that the whole group can share is a nice thing to show care.


What should I give to family or children if attending a celebration?

  • If you will visit a Chinese person’s family celebration, you can give a gift or hong bao to children during the New Year holiday before the close of holiday on Lantern Festival. Feb. 19th – Mar. 5th.
  • It is best to prepare an envelope for all children present, and gifts for the family (food is easy and it’s good to bring extra envelopes just in case).
    • Chinese people are sensitive not to inconvenience others, so they may not invite you to their New Year’s celebration where it obligates you to give to their children.
    • If you are invited and are not prepared to give, don’t worry as you are not expected to.
    • Optimally, you can give kids money and but it’s best to give to ALL CHILDREN attending (100-200RMB).
  • If they give to your children, you should consider how much is received and in turn give at least the same amount.
  • Past money given for weddings or celebrations should not be considered when giving hong bao. Although this is the time to settle up BUT not for weddings, graduations, or births of new children. This is a totally different situation and has nothing to do with each other in terms of giving hong bao.
  • If Chinese want to display familial CLOSENESS to a friend or coworker, they will traditionally give hong bao to their children, NOT TO EACH OTHER. Between family members, people will traditionally give more due to closeness of relationship. Consider an average amount for the middle class to give at 100-200RMB but very close relationships will give 500-1000+RMB, similar to the amounts given to a niece or nephew. Foreigners often consider giving on the more generous side because of the difference of income.


Will my Ayi and driver compare hong bao amounts with each other and other service providers?

  • “In groups” matter. If you are really the in-group member and familial with the driver or ayi, you can tell them that you would really appreciate if they kept the amount private due to our western culture. As a “real” in group member, they should do their best to care for your priorities.
  • If you are not really “in group”, they may talk to each other. Don’t consider it too much as they will compare themselves anyway, so don’t just give out of obligation.
  • If you still feel uncomfortable, you can give the same amount of hong bao to both ayi and driver. Later you can always give additional gifts or red envelopes to show you care if one service provider deserves more.
  • Some have been told they MUST give to their hotel or service apartment staff in the New Year or it will affect their service in the coming year. This IS NOT a rule, but if precedence has been set, the unpleasant reality may have to be followed. Look at it as a down payment on service for the coming year. Again, we do not agree with this, but it exists. Seek advice from longer term residence and even the resident management.
  • If you want to give to your service apartment staff, chocolates, candy, fruits are also considerate gifts for the whole staff to share. Remember foreign goods are greatly appreciated.
  • Give hong bao to service providers you have a “relationship” with. If they are just polite, nice or are doing their standard job, you can just give a small gift, but remember that giving too much or to someone you don’t have a relationship with may cause them to think you want something from them…not that you are thankful or appreciative.


How much should I give? Amounts?

  • Give gifts according to priority
  • It’s best to give at least 100, and in 100 increments. The 0 is circular like many Chinese symbols which symbolizes reunion.
  • Best not to give 400, 700, 900
  • Best amounts are in bold but other amounts still acceptable are: 100, 200, 300, 500, 800, 1000, 1500, 2000



If a helper has paid for things in the past, you should give back that amount plus the New Year money. Consider this as the time to settle up.

  • Previous year’s money given doesn’t count.
  • Relationships are judged by effort, kindness, “FEELING” and “CLOSENESS“

These amounts should be considered according to the information above.

Amounts may vary or increase depending on the context of the city, neighborhood, community, etc.


Reminder- China Foundations will be closed from Feb. 16th – Feb.25th for Spring Festival resuming Thu. Feb.26th

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