Messaging app WeChat brings Chinese New Year traditions into the mobile era

Messaging app WeChat brings Chinese New Year traditions into the mobile era

Popular messaging service WeChat is hogging the limelight this Chinese New Year — by giving the traditions typical of this festive period a facelift.

As technology has altered the way people in China carry out certain traditions during Chinese New Year, at no point is it clearer that Weixin, the version of WeChat available in the country, has emerged as a frontrunner in the wave of change.

The Weixin team came upon a brilliant idea of taking the Chinese New Year tradition of gifting money into the digital era. Basically, rather than (or, perhaps, in addition to) giving red envelopes of money to family and friends, Weixin users could tap into digital payments and send monetary gifts of up to CNY100 (around $16.50) per go to others on the chat app.

State media Xinhua reports (hat/tip Tech in Asia) that the first two days of Chinese New Year saw more than five million people across China taking part in Weixin’s online red envelope activity, with more than 20 million red envelopes handed out, according to data from Tencent, the company that owns WeChat.

At its peak, 585,000 people took part in gifting red envelopes over a mere five minutes on Weixin, with 121,000 red envelopes being claimed. The messaging service has an estimated 500 million plus registered users in China alone, while it has 270 million active users worldwide.

Another tradition has been entirely revamped by Weixin as well.

It is customary to send New Year well-wishes to your friends on the eve of Chinese New Year — and this year, a whopping 10 million messages were sent in one minute at peak on the eve of Chinese New Year via Weixin. The number of messages sent this year on the chat app was double that of last year, showing that more people are flocking to the app instead of sending cards or SMS-es.

Chinese New Year is a time steeped in tradition, and the fact that Weixin has managed to make its presence so strongly welcomed by users speaks volumes about its ability to straddle the space between old and new.

As WeChat moves into verticals such as m-commerce, it wouldn’t be any surprise if the app soon disrupts other traditions next year. Who knows, we may just get to see Chinese New Year grocery shopping or delivery, or the booking of transportation back to people’s hometowns, done entirely via WeChat in the future.

Headline image via Frederick J Brown/AFP/Getty Images

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