Spring Festival is now in full swing, but choosing seasonal gifts for Chinese friends can be a knotty task for expats – especially newcomers to Beijing. If you’re confused about how to pick out that perfect tasteful gift, fear not! We’ve compiled a list of 10 culturally-appropriate Spring Festival presents to suit every age range and situation.
1. Flowers Who will reject a bouquet of lovely flowers that bring a sense of spring into the house? Brightly-colored flowers will always be appreciated when you visit a Chinese family.
2. Lucky Greenery In China, there are houseplants with particularly auspicious-sounding names, such as fugui zhu or lucky bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana). The latter literally translates to “rich bamboo.” There’s also jinju (potted kumquat), whose name is a homophone for “gold” (金). You can buy these in one of the local flower markets in Beijing.
3. Gift Baskets Every year around this time, the shelves at major supermarkets are piled with assorted gift baskets featuring fruits, nuts, snacks, and more. All of them are packed with goodies, so just grab one at your local supermarket if you’re in a hurry – it saves lots of time!
4. Traditional Pastry Gift Boxes Giving traditional pastries is a popular practice around Spring Festival. Follow the example of Beijingers and head to local favorite Dao Xiang Cun (稻香村) to pick up assorted gift boxes. Pastries include sticky and sweet saqima (萨其马), cake-like zaonigao (枣泥糕), and crumbly almond cookies (taosu, 桃酥). Click here for an idea of the company’s products.
5. Tea Chinese people’s love for tea never abates – especially the old people. An elegantly-wrapped box of green tea will undoubtedly strike their fancy.
6. Cigarettes Though China has encouraged people to get behind the idea of health-conscious gifts in recent years, cigarettes remain a popular gift around major holidays. This one will be off-putting to many expats, but the fact remains that many make lighting up a part of their daily lives.
7. Liquor Traditionally, Chinese people love to receive a hair-raising bottle of baijiu – but a nice bottle of wine also makes for a classy gift.
8. Health Products Nowadays, Beijingers attach more and more importance to their personal health (maybe the terrifying air pollution has gotten to them too). Health products such as royal jelly, vitamins, fish oil capsules, and imported infant formula have become sought-after gifts.
9. Toys You can’t go wrong with gifts for the little ones. Girls will love a cute stuffed animal, while toy cars are a safe choice for boys.
10. Calligraphy, Paintings, and Couplets During Chinese New Year, people like to deck out their homes with tons of red decorations. Get your hosts a tasteful painting with images of fish (a homonym for “surplus”), some delicate papercuts, or a set of paper couplets for the door.
Born and bred in Beijing, beijingkids intern Celia Hao is currently a senior university student majoring in Spanish at Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU). Passionate about writing, she is eager to share her love for this amazing city. Her interests include movies, travel, and good food.