Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

1 Feb, 2014

Frugality “in” at this year’s Chinese Spring Festival


Beijing, (Xinhua), February 01, 2014 – Fewer banquets, gifts and galas; more reunion meals at home instead of restaurants; grassroots cultural shows: the Chinese observe Spring Festival frugally but still have fun.

The frugality campaign, launched late in 2012 by central authorities, has brought big changes to the most important Chinese holiday, this year.

“In previous years, we usually had dinners on the eve of the festival in restaurants, which provided fine food. But we always felt a lack of the atmosphere of our whole family gathering together to make the food with our own hands,” said Wu Zilong of Shijiazhuang, capital of the northern province of Hebei.

In the past, leftovers symbolized surplus. This year, dinner comes in suitable amounts, said Wu, worried about waste.

Since Xi Jinping took the helm of the Communist Party of China in November 2012, the Party come up with a series of detailed regulations to uproot extravagance by government workers, such as requiring officials to travel with smaller entourages, simplifying receptions and practising frugality while the austerity drive continues apace.

Prior to the week of New Year holidays which began on Friday, the Party ordered more supervision and welcomed tip-offs from citizens and the media about excessive spending and gifts.

Sales of expensive liquor and tobacco have dropped drastically compared with previous years.

“People buy famous brands mainly for gifts, so priced liquor does not sell well if fewer people send gifts. Prices have had to come down, otherwise there would be no sale at all,” said Han, a salesman RT-Mart super in Jinan, capital of Shandong Province.

The change has even affected garbage collectors. Zhu Yuankui, a garbage dealer in Jinan, said his business was bad as people seldom bought luxury goods with excessive packaging for their own needs. The amount of quality garbage he collected dropped by half in January, he said.

In the past, people stored up large amounts of food in advance to treat guests, which usually led to waste. “Supermarkets keep open during the holiday, so we can buy goods any time we need to,” said Li Lan, another citizen of Shijiazhuang.

Frugality is also reflected in the arrangements of local governments.

In Fengxian County, Shaanxi Province, fresh flower pots on streets were all canceled this year. Undamaged lanterns used in 2013 were reused for decorations, saving some 30,000 yuan (5,000 U.S.dollars).

“Though decorations were less, workers cleaned up the old lamps in public venues and our county’s atmosphere remains very festive,” said a local park and sanitation official.

Despite the austerity, grassroots traditions, such as temple fairs, are going strong this festival. More than 700 exhibitions or folklore shows are happening during the festival in Hebei, said Wang Zhenru, a provincial publicity official.

It is the most important time for family reunions and people who spend most of the time working away from home do not hesitate to travel back home in crowded trains, just for a short gathering with parents or children.

It turns out that all the self-denial has made people feel more relaxed, no longer fretting over expensive gifts. This year, the precious days we enjoy with our families is higher quality time, and at a lower cost.

“Spring Festival should have its own flavor, but it should not be the smell of firecrackers or roasting meat. It should be a flavor of reunion.” said Li Yuhe, a farmer in Qilihai township, Ninghe County, Hebei Province.