A new year’s ritual – the company new year’s party

11 Jan

The annual dinner or Nian Hui (年会) happens at almost all Chinese companies this time of year.  They run the gamut – the more traditional being elaborate seated Chinese dinners with masters of ceremonies dressed in formal attire to smaller events at a department level.

All of the annual dinners I have attended to date have involved friendly competition, performances and lucky draw raffle prizes to make sure everyone leaves the event in a good mood.  They all also will involve the new Chinese zodiac animal that is coming into season.  Next year is the year of the horse, so horses featured in the 2014 festivities.

Now that I have switched companies I have had the opportunity to see another style of annual dinner.  We celebrated last week and really had a great time.

Similar to my first year in China, I was asked to participate in one of the show elements – a song choice with back up dancers.  It was the Alison Gold song – “Chinese Food.”  The song was ridiculed in the US press because it is not politically correct, but my colleagues were the ones who suggested it – and given the applause we got, enjoyed by all.

My costume for the Chinese Food performance.  I found out later that this is a traditional garment for unmarried girls in North East China.  It was also very hot with the fur collar!

My costume for the Chinese Food performance. I found out later that this is a traditional garment for unmarried girls in North East China. It was also very hot with the fur collar!

Unlike my previous annual dinner experiences though – this wasn’t a sit down dinner – it was a buffet and then followed by the show – which meant that people paid more close  attention to the performance because they weren’t eating simultaneously.  In addition – this event focused on the management team much more than at my previous company – to the point that a lot of the jokes were at the management teams’ expense.  Luckily I got a little bit of a heads up beforehand!

The event was a spectacular – the theme was “Asian style.”  From our Chinese Food performance, to wishing the team happy new year, to a troop of three belly dancers (normally mild-mannered employees), to a “princess choosing her prince” spectacular involving cross dressing and of course a sweet love song – there were jokes and applause for all.  We also selected over twenty people for gift certificates and other prizes.

The final event though, was the re-enactment by the management team of a scene in one of the hottest soap operas running on Chinese TV.  It was a Qing dynasty event – the scene where one concubine accuses the other of having a baby with the doctor instead of the emperor.  A paternity test is demanded and it is found that the first concubine fixed the results.

None of the management team was aware of what the challenge would be prior to that evening and we were broken into two teams – each to reenact the same scene, then the audience would vote.  To make matters more complicated, I don’t read Chinese well and two of the others didn’t read Chinese at all, so it was an English/Chinese mix, but that added to the humor.  My team decided to switch things up – our emperor was a woman – and the favored concubine was the chief legal counsel (a man).  I never would have guessed their hidden talent at acting – it was hilarious.   We were given period dress to wear as well which helped with the humor.

I’m happy to say that my team prevailed with our twist.  I laughed so hard that my sides hurt.

After the festivities were over, about twenty of us headed across the complex to a karaoke bar and sang into the wee hours of the morning.  It was the perfect capstone to a wonderful evening.  We rocked out to Chinese and English hits and celebrated a birthday with cake.

I won’t forget this annual dinner for a long time.  This is one ritual I will stand behind.

Are companies in the US still doing holiday parties?  I know that with the economic downturn many of these events were stopped – but I think that coming together with colleagues outside of the normal leads to another level of trust which results in superior teams.  When was your favorite holiday party?

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7 Responses to “A new year’s ritual – the company new year’s party”

  1. Anne January 11, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

    Wow, that’s quite a look 😉 Sounds hilarious!

    • gkm2011 January 12, 2014 at 10:12 am #

      Yes, there was a pair of matching red pants as well – which I didn’t picture, made even more hilarious by the fact that they were six inches too short. Good fun though.

  2. Matt January 12, 2014 at 5:50 am #

    My company does holiday parties, but in three years I haven’t attended one yet. In 2011, I started employment before Christmas but the holiday party had been the weekend prior to my first day. In 2012, I was at the Texas branch the weekend of the Louisiana party, and in Louisiana the weekend of the Texas party. And last month, I had already scheduled the weekend of the holiday party to be in San Francisco with a friend (the SF trip was planned months in advance).

    I think the last time I attended a “holiday party” was 2010. We had an informal get-together among the campus tutor organization. Everyone had volunteered to bring food/beverages/plates etc. It was more a holiday-themed “thank you for the hard work this semester” party. We also spent some time going over the session attendance numbers/usual business. It was fun, but hardly as elaborate as your description!

    • gkm2011 January 12, 2014 at 10:13 am #

      Formal or informal doesn’t matter as long as everybody is on the same page. I had a great time though at this one – though it was pretty exhausting!

  3. Every Day Adventures in Asia January 14, 2014 at 11:44 pm #

    Your company holiday party clearly trumps any I’ve attended! Wow! And love the outfit 😉

    • gkm2011 January 18, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

      It was pretty spectacular. Next year come in town and I will ask if I can bring a guest!

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