Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Text Messaging for Chinese New Year Greetings: Hated and Loved

Text messaging has become a popular way of exchaging Chinese New Year greetings in China

Just when a national competition for the best Chinese New Year greeting message texted through cell phone is about to announce the winner, some people in Guangzhou posted comments online calling on the public to refuse text messaging as a “cheap and lazy” way of the New Year greeting.

As a long tradition, greeting people for the Chinese New Year, or bai nian, is an etiquette that almost no one can avoid during the holiday. Everybody, old and young, rich and poor, men and women, will always either utter or receive good wishes for things like money, accomplishments, happiness and health.

For thousands of years, Chinese people have knocked at the door of friends, relatives, teachers or supervisors in order to deliver their holiday greetings, bringing along families and nice gifts. The red envelopes containing some money are also handed out to the younger generation during such visits. This way, people also show their care and respect for others.

Such visits are diminishing in today’s China, and are increasingly limited to the close family or some special persons, like the most important business partner. Instead, more and more Chinese people are making phone calls or sending emails to convey the greetings, without having to see each other any more. Text messaging provides yet another easy out for such greetings, this time even without talking to people.

In many cases, people receive the same message from over a dozen of senders. Since inputting Chinese characters on the tiny cell phone keypad is a taxing task for many people, they don’t bother to create their own messages but simply forward what they have received from others. That is why some people are calling text messaging a cheap and hypocritical way of New Year greeting.

To encourage people to create sincere, funny and thoughtful text messages for the greeting, major local media outlets in Beijing joined over 20 popular websites to launch a text message competition, asking the public to vote for their favorite ones.

The results are due on Thursday, and about 600,000 people from over all China have submitted more than 98,000 text messages. The winner will get a car as the prize, and other runner-ups will get rewards ranging from flat panel TV to cell phones.

No matter how much it is loved or hated, text messaging has inevitably become the dominant way of exchanging Chinese New Year greetings among people. But still, saying a few nice words to people face to face, with enthusiasm and smile during the traditional holiday, is just about as warm as it has always been.

----by Josie Liu (the competition)


Xiao Zhu said...

And what's your opinion about forwarded text messages sent on Chinese New Year Josie?

Gerry said...

Well,text messaging has become a popular method of greeting people on special occasions throughout the world.No wonder,China too does not lag far behind in this context.However,I dont think it should be termed hypocritical.Although I agree that there are better ways to greet people,the best being-to greet in person.

Gerry for Chinese New Year Greeting Cards

Josie Liu said...

Re: xiao zhu

i personally don't hate forwarded text messages. some of them are actually very well composed and meaningful. i used to save a few of them on my cell phone for a long time after the holiday season.

i think text messaging is an efficient way to send out wishes to a lot of people, including those who you don't have to meet to say bai nian. for close friends and family, however, i prefer to coming to visit them or at least taking the time to make a phone call and talk to the real person.

when everybody is text messaging, a phone call or visit will appear to mean much more.

Lisa said...

Hi Josie:

Thanks for this post. I didn't know websites held text message competitions! I'm writing an article for a magazine about how Chinese New Year traditions have changed over the years, and this information was very helpful. Thank you!


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