Quote of the Day: “How is This Lunar New Year’s Eve Different From Years Past? So Few Red Envelopes”

Popular science and current events blogger Xiang Dongliang’s musing on the Chinese Lunar New Year 2024 is CDT’s Quote of the Day:

What struck me most about CCTV’s “Year of the Dragon” Spring Festival Gala?
So many adverts.
How is this Lunar New Year’s Eve different from years past?
So few red envelopes. [Chinese]

With many Chinese consumers tightening their belts in 2024, there are fewer hongbao (红包, physical or digital red envelopes containing cash gifts) being given this Lunar New Year, and the monetary amounts are more modest than in years past. In a February 9 WeChat post, Xiang Dongliang noted that in the past, bosses would often compete to be seen as generous, conspicuously giving out red envelopes to individual employees via WeChat, but “this year there seems to be a tacit agreement to just send New Year’s greetings as a WeChat group text.”

Xiang also bemoaned the proliferation of advertising during this year’s chunwan (春晚), China Media Group’s Lunar New Year Gala (or Spring Festival Gala), broadcast on CCTV-1 and CGTN. The product placement was particularly clunky, he noted, often interfering with the flow of sketches, or seeming poorly thought out and “tacked on.” Such complaints have become familiar in recent years: the 2023 Spring Festival Gala was notable for an upsurge in “booze ads” and fewer advertisements from China’s tech giants.

Writing for Radii, Tianrui Huang highlighted the disconnect between the values of younger Gen Z viewers and the rather musty “stock characters” who populate the annual televised gala. She points to the emerging social media trend of Gen Zers posting videos of gala-like skits starring themselves. “Through playful scenarios,” she writes, “they gently poke humor at aspects of the gala that they find to be out of touch or stuffy, humorously reshaping the event through their unique perspective.”

The February 11 edition of the ChinaTalk newsletter featured excerpts from a guest post by the Substack Chinese Doom Scroll, with a pithy recap (and embedded YouTube videos) of some of the main skits, music, and dance performances of this year’s gala. Andrew Methven’s Slow Chinese newsletter mentions that 610 million train tickets were sold in the two weeks before Lunar New Year, thus fueling the use of ticket-snatching apps” designed to cut down on legwork and minimize the headaches of obtaining tickets. And for What’s On Weibo, Manya Koetze profiled nine Chinese movies currently competing for a slice of the domestic box office during the Spring Festival peak moviegoing season.

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