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Syracuse University

01/24/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 01/24/2020 18:12

Coronavirus and Chinese New Year Celebrations – What To Expect

Many Chinese New Year celebrations have been banned or postponed in China's major cities as officials do everything they can to contain the ongoing coronavirus scare. This week authorities implemented travel restrictions to quarantine roughly 25 million people.

Gareth Fisher is an associate professor director of the Chinese Studies Minor program at Syracuse University's College of Arts and Sciences. He says the Spring Festival is the most important holiday in the country and says closing off transit and travel will most affect migrant workers who were planning to travel home to families in rural areas.

Fisher says:

'The Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year as it is more commonly known in the West, is the most important annual holiday in China, a bit like Christmas and New Year's all rolled into one.

'Although the main celebrations for Spring Festival occur on the first day of the lunar year (this Saturday in the Western calendar), most Chinese generally take at least a week off work to celebrate the holiday. As with Christmas or Thanksgiving in the West, the Spring Festival is an important occasion for families to get together. For this reason, it is the busiest travel time of the year. Therefore, closing off transport in and out of Wuhan could not have come at a worse time.

'This will most affect migrant workers in the city who had planned to travel back to their rural homes to spend the Spring Festival with their families. However, with respect to the closing of shops and other public places, this is probably the best time, since many places would have been closed in any case for the holiday.

'With respect to celebrations for the holidays, this is also likely to have a minimal impact. While parades, performances, and fireworks are a common part of the Spring Festival, the most important thing for most Chinese is being at home with the family. However, if the crisis continues longer than the next two weeks, the closing of businesses, shops, and public venues will start to have a more significant economic impact on the people of Wuhan.'

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