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    3 Youth-Inspired Consumption Trends This Spring Festival

    From prayer beads to ready-made meals, young Chinese are playing a bigger part in the annual nianhuo consumption rush.

    New Year goods, or nianhuo, exchanged at family reunions and during visits to the homes of relatives and friends, are one of the most important features of the Spring Festival celebrations.

    The responsibility for purchasing nianhuo has traditionally fallen on elders in the family. However, there has been a trend of younger Chinese taking up the mantle in recent years, with leading e-commerce platform Taobao reporting in January that over half of nianhuo purchases this year were made by users born after 1995.

    This trend has resulted in changes to the sorts of nianhuo being purchased. Instead of traditional gifts like red underwear — traditionally given to people entering their zodiac year — younger consumers are expressing their unique tastes and preferences in their Lunar New Year purchases. Here are three popular nianhuo choices this year.

    Higher powers

    The explosion of interest in spiritual ornaments and experiences among young Chinese in recent years has carried into this year’s nianhuo consumption, with prayer beads and bracelets surging in popularity in the runup to the Spring Festival.  

    According to leading e-commerce platform, the volume of bodhi prayer bracelets purchased by users born after 2000 increased more than 32 times year on year, while certain types of bracelets saw sales increase 658% year on year among those born after 1990.

    Often sold at temples, the bracelets claim to provide wearers with various benefits such as good luck and romance, making it an auspicious Spring Festival gift as people exchange blessings for the new year.

    “I bought bracelets for everyone in my family to help provide safe passage into the new year,” said Sun Mingxin, a 24-year-old student from Harbin, northeastern Heilongjiang province.

    Hanfu craze

    Another nianhuo trend this year was the surge in popularity of buying hanfu, an umbrella term for traditional or traditionally inspired Chinese clothing. Like spiritual bracelets, hanfu has also experienced a boom in interest among young Chinese in recent years.

    According to data released by tech giant Alibaba, in the first week of January, the transaction volume of mamianqun, a traditional Chinese skirt, with prices ranging from 100 yuan ($13.9) to thousands, increased by 24.9%, and the transaction value of cheongsam also increased by 31.1%.

    Zhong Yuan, a 29-year-old from Chengdu, capital of southwestern Sichuan province, told Sixth Tone that she bought four mamianqun for all her family members to “feel more festive.”

    The growing popularity of hanfu has been linked with consumers’ increasing desire for products with traditional characteristics at a time when the government has emphasized the promotion of traditional Chinese culture.

    On this year’s Spring Festival Gala, or chunwan, several performances featuring hanfu dresses were praised by netizens for showcasing a rich variety of styles from different dynastic periods.

    Meal prep

    A controversy over an increasing number of people opting for the convenience of ready-made meals for their Spring Festival banquets has continued into the new year.

    According to surveys by Alibaba-owned grocer Hema and iiMedia Research Center, around half of respondents said they would have ready-made food at their important Lunar New Year’s Eve dinner, with ready-made food even becoming a top 10 nianhuo purchase among consumers for the first time.

    Qiu Zhang, a 24-year-old from the eastern Zhejiang province, said her family’s Lunar New Year’s Eve dinner on Friday was a “trade show of ready-made food.”

    “They’re clean and convenient. And while they cannot be described as delicious, at least no one deemed them unpalatable,” she said.

    For Huang Zaiyu, a 23-year-old from the southwestern metropolis Chongqing, ready-made meals have helped relieve the burden on her grandfather, in his 80s, who cooks for over a dozen family members during the Spring Festival.

    “Now we have more time for conversation,” she said.

    Additional reporting: Luo Yahan; editor: Vincent Chow.

    (Header image: Visuals from VCG and Taobao, reedited by Sixth Tone)