China’s most important celebration of the year — the Spring Festival — just ended officially (if not mentally for some), with the country now mostly back at work. The week-long holiday marks the start of the Lunar New Year, and is sort of like a combination of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve all together.
This is also when the fabled “largest human migration on the planet” normally takes place, with hundreds of millions of people usually heading home for family reunions and interrogations.
This year, however, things were different.
For the first time in history, authorities advised workers to stay where they were, introducing a number of policies aimed at discouraging holiday travel in the wake of regional Covid-19 spikes. “Stay put during Spring Festival” (or 就地过年 in Chinese) has become one of the most trending terms as the Year of the Ox has arrived.
Here are 6 notable statistics that tell you how a very different New Year went down.
Similar to the less-rushed Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays last year in the US as CDC issued stay-at-home holiday travel recommendations, the overall traffic volume by rail, road, air or waterway transport during the Spring Festival in China decreased 76.4% and 43.1% compared to 2019 and 2020 respectively, based on statistics from China’s Ministry of Transport.
Unable to visit relatives this year (or attempting to avoid being stuck in an apartment with them), people flocked to movie theaters. According to a research institute affiliated with Alibaba Pictures, the box office for the past week in China broke the 8 billion RMB (around 120 million USD) mark, easily surpassing the records set in previous years.
On the first day of the Lunar New Year alone, more than 34 million people went to the cinema, fueling an unprecedented 1.7 billion RMB (around 26 million USD) single-day sales.
And all this despite coronavirus-related restrictions being in place in many theaters, including socially-distanced seating and mandatory masks.
The annual week-long Spring Festival holiday usually marks the shut down of the country’s shipping industry. But this year a package boom occurred with a 260% surge in volume. The leading categories of delivery were food, local specialties and gifts between family members and friends. One major social media trend saw young workers who stayed put for the holiday posting photos of the gift parcels received from their families, including ready-to-eat homemade New Year dishes and other tastes of home.
For the three days leading up to the New Year’s Day, orders of single-portion food doubled compared to last year, according to food delivery giant Eleme. Hotpot was one of the most popular orders among young people, with delivery of the dish also doubling in the Year of the Ox.
According to statistics issued by China’s online payment service Alipay, 270% more people used virtual hongbao — the traditional New Year gift of “red envelopes” stuffed with cash — on its platform. Shanghai was the top city for giving out online red envelopes, with Guangzhou and Shenzhen being the second and the third respectively.
Instead of traveling halfway across the country or going overseas, more city-dwellers chose to celebrate their long-awaited holiday week this year by taking a staycation. According to travel services company CTrip, during the Spring Festival ticket sales for local tourist attractions increased 300%, while bookings for luxury (4 star and 5 star) hotels make up 60% of all hotel reservations.
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