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Everything you need to know about the CCTV New Year’s Gala

The glitz! The glamour! Discover the secrets behind the most viewed TV show in the world, the CCTV New Year’s Gala


Whilst it may sound curiously like a surveillance-sponsored celebration, the CCTV New Year’s Gala (or, ‘Chunwan’) is in fact the annual televised Chinese New Year celebrations. The glittering China Central Television event is the most watched TV programme in the world. Heralding the start of the new Lunar Year, the four and a half hour-long extravaganza pulls in an incredible 700 million viewers. That’s 90% of Chinese families, and, to give you an idea of the immense scale, that’s the equivalent of eight Superbowl audiences! And the Oscars? Schmoscars!

Essentially a variety show of epic proportions, the CCTV New Year’s Gala presents an amazing array of entertaining performances, hosted by six suave presenters sporting glamorous ballgowns and tuxedos. Some presenters will change each year, many have hosted for over a decade. From actors to quiz show hosts, the presenters have diverse TV backgrounds.

All generations of family in China will gather round the TV together to watch everything from acrobatics, comedy skits and dancing to musical numbers, operatic scores and magic tricks. So influential is the show that it can make overnight superstars of performers who take part. Viewers can actually vote for the favourite performers by calling a hotline. Winners will be featured in the CCTV Lantern Gala, 15 days after Lantern Festival.

First shown in 1983, the CCTV New Year’s Gala only grows in scale each year. Of course, as modern technology has developed, the spectacle has become more interactive with the audience. During the live gala, via WeChat, viewers can send and receive online red envelopes (these are gifted by family members at Chinese New Year) by shaking their phones when watching the programme.

Aside from all the entertainment fun, the CCTV New Year’s Gala will also include political messages too. Gōngyìguǎnggào (public service commercials) raise awareness of certain social issues, and, naturally the gala is almost always underpinned by themes of national unity and patriotism.

Airing from 8pm until half midnight, the CCTV New Year’s Gala climaxes with a huge countdown at 11.55. Typically, the gala traditionally concludes with the song Nanwangjinxiao (Can’t Forget Tonight) which has been performed 21 times over the past 34 years. Finally, upon the stroke of midnight, a huge bell rings in the Chinese New Year and the whole of China rejoices together.

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