Chinese New Year – Considerations for sending parcels to friends and family

Chinese New year 2015

As much of the UK begins to settle down after a busy New Year, the planet's most populous country is still looking ahead to its own monster celebrations. The Chinese New Year is, by some way, the most important date in China's public holiday calendar. Marked by people across the world, the main event is complemented by a further 14 fun-filled days of partying and tradition.

The festival is based on a combination of solar and lunar movements, meaning it falls on a different day each year. The next one - marking the year of the goat - begins on February 19th, so there's still time to find and send gifts to family and friends in China.

What to send

Chinese New Year is full of centuries-old traditions and myths. The celebrations consist of everything from fireworks and family feasts to music and markets. It's normal to give gifts too, with elders usually passing on monetary presents to younger relatives. Unfortunately, cash is on China's 'prohibited' list, but sweets are popular alternatives, so can be sent to children and adults alike.

The colour red is one of the biggest features of Chinese New Year, because it symbolises happiness, luck and good fortune. Envelopes used to pass gifts of money are usually red, for instance. Seeing as the colour is thought to ward off evil spirits, red house decorations are usually appreciated by recipients - as is clothing.

What not to send

While the New Year is a time of fun and celebration, there are a few things you should refrain from sending - some of which will take a little explaining for those who don't speak either of China's most common languages. In Cantonese, for instance, the word for 'book' also means 'lose', and 'shoes' is a homonym for 'rough'. This means books and shoes are definitely off the gift list.

Other things to avoid sending are clocks and watches, which in Chinese tradition can suggest that one's life is nearing the end, or that time is limited. Black and white clothing is also a no-go; the former symbolises bad luck and the latter is traditional at funerals.  

As our guide on sending parcels to China explains, there are a number of items that customs officials definitely won't allow into the country - at New Year or any other time. This includes photographs, storage media and jewellery alongside various other things.

How to send

China's a pretty long way from the UK. In fact, London and Beijing are separated by 5,000 miles and about ten countries. For this reason, it's a good idea to make sure your items are packaged properly and securely. Use strong materials and be sure to tape up all openings. Then, when everything's done, write the address clearly with the country's full name in capitals ('THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA') on the last line.

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