As some of you know, I have just completed another 18-day Asian tour, which took me to Shanghai, Bangkok, Manila and Hong Kong, before returning to Toronto. So what does this have to do with today’s column?

Well, it’s the start of Chinese New Year and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to learn how we acknowledge another culture’s holiday.

Firstly, there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking someone from a different faith, background or nationality the meaning of and how he or she celebrates a particular holiday.

So, with the start of Chinese New Year, how do the Chinese celebrate their new year’s holiday and how should others acknowledge this important holiday?


Although some Chinese people will greet each other with a traditional phrase, it is absolutely fine for people of another culture to say “Happy New Year.”

Now, if you see people receiving a red envelope, don’t panic. You don’t need to do anything.

Traditionally, when youngsters come to wish the seniors good health, a red envelope with small amounts of money inside is given to the children to wish them good luck and good fortune in the new year.

You are neither expected nor required to give a gift of any kind.

However, if you feel compelled to give something, sweets to symbolize a sweet year, and/or oranges, are always a good thing. If you are going to wrap the present, ideally it should be wrapped in something red and gold, which are the traditional colours of the holiday.

Now, as my dear friend from Peninsula Hotel in Shanghai said upon my departure last week, “I wish you a Happy Chinese New Year, Mr. Charles, and a wonderful year of the Dragon!” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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