50 Surprising Facts About Bubble Wrap

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iStock.com/kutaytanir

Outside of cats making their home in empty shipping boxes, no packaging tool has brought more joy to consumers than Bubble Wrap, which has been protecting fragile goods—and relieving stress—with its air-filled chambers since 1960. Here are 50 things you might not know about this shipping institution.

1. It was originally supposed to be wallpaper.

Bubble Wrap on a ceiling with blue lighting.
Mr. Michael Phams, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Wallpaper may have lost some of cachet (though it's making a comeback), but in the 1950s, gluing patterned rolls to your living room was a decorating win. In 1957, an engineer named Al Fielding and a Swiss inventor named Marc Chavannes wanted to bring a wallpaper to market with a raised texture. As an experiment, they glued two shower curtains together, sealing them so tightly that air bubbles were created. But few consumers wanted to cocoon themselves in a padded room, and the wrap-as-wallpaper idea never took off.

2. It was used as greenhouse insulation.

Boxes of plants near a wall of Bubble Wrap.
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With their wallpaper dreams dashed, Fielding and Chavannes decided to take their glued-curtain idea and transfer it to greenhouses, where the material could be used to insulate buildings and retain heat. This worked, but it was still hard to convince buyers to enclose their environment in plastic. For a time, it seemed like Bubble Wrap would remain a good idea without much of a purpose.

3. IBM changed everything.

Vintage IBM 1401 computers from the Computer History Museum.
Sandy Kemsley, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

By 1959, Fielding and Chavannes had incorporated Sealed Air, a business umbrella for marketing their Bubble Wrap product. Their marketing expert, Frederick W. Bowers, learned that IBM was preparing to ship their 1401 decimal computer to buyers. Realizing the item was both expensive and fragile, Bowers pitched the company on the idea of shipping them wrapped in Sealed Air’s trademark product. (Previously, shippers used newspaper, sawdust, or horse hair to protect delicate items.) Impressed, IBM soon began using Bubble Wrap to protect delicate electronics from damage during transit. By the mid-1960s, Bubble Wrap had become a shipping institution.

4. "Bubble wrap" is trademarked.

Close-up of Bubble Wrap
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Like Xerox, Kleenex, Coke, and other brand names that became so ubiquitous that they began to slip into day-to-day vocabularies, Bubble Wrap is actually a trademarked product of Sealed Air. No competing air-cushioning company can use the term.

5. Bubble Wrap comes in handy on film sets.

Three women wearing backpacks.
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The next time you watch a movie or television show set in a high school, it's possible you’re looking at a bunch of extras toting Bubble Wrap around campus. Actors sometimes carry backpacks stuffed with the product so they're not forced to lug around heavy books during a long shooting day.

6. Bubble Wrap could (maybe) save your life.

Feet on the edge of a building.
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Could Bubble Wrap cushion a fall? While we would never recommend you put it to the test, one theory says maybe. In 2011, WIRED contributor Rhett Allain crunched the numbers and estimated that one might need 39 layers of Bubble Wrap in order to survive a fall out of a sixth-story window.

7. An air force base once mistook its pops for gunshots.

Bubble wrap with a blue tint.
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In December 2015, security officials were called to the Kirtland Air Force base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, after reports of gunshots were heard. High-powered weapons and Humvees were assembled before officials determined that the “threat” had been someone on base popping Bubble Wrap.

8. The boy scouts set a popping world record.

Close-up of a Boy Scout uniform.
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In 2015, Boy Scouts in Elbert, Colorado succeeded in setting a Guinness World Record for the most number of people popping Bubble Wrap simultaneously: 2681 Scouts participated.

9. An artist uses bubble wrap to create "pop art."

Artist Bradley Hart attends the opening reception for The Masters Interpreted at Cavalier Gallery on May 7, 2014 in New York City.
Andrew Toth, Getty Images

Artist Bradley Hart has a unique approach to modern art. Using a syringe, he injects paint into individual air cylinders of Bubble Wrap, creating pixelated-looking landscapes and portraits. Hart also displays the reverse side of these works, which feature running paint from the injections and serve as a counterpoint to the more disciplined image on the front.

10. Some bubble wrap doesn't pop.

Rolls of bubble wrap and shipping boxes.
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Sacrificing fun for practicality, in 2015 Sealed Air began offering iBubble Wrap, a product that ships flat and uninflated so it takes up less space in warehouses. (Customers can inflate it when it’s ready to be used.) It's as effective as regular Bubble Wrap, with one caveat: once filled, it doesn't make any satisfying noise when popped.

11. Bubble Wrap once kept a giant pumpkin from disaster.

Close-up of a giant pumpkin.
iStock

What happens when you drop an 815-pound pumpkin from a 35-foot crane? Normally, a crime scene. But in October 2000, a pumpkin-dropping contest in Iowa decided to see if a Bubble Wrap landing pad could protect "Gourdzilla" from harm [PDF]. Landing on the product, the mammoth squash was completely intact.

12. Popping Bubble Wrap may have health benefits.

Woman popping Bubble Wrap on a table with coffee nearby.
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Popping Bubble Wrap ranks among life’s greatest small pleasures. Some have theorized it may have to do with our ancestral habit of crushing ticks or other insects that plagued us—although the truth may be a little less morbid. In 1992, psychology professor Kathleen Dillon conducted a study in which she found that subjects were more relaxed and less tired after a popping session. One possible reason: Humans are soothed by tactile sensations of touch, which is why some cultures favor smooth stones or "worry beads" to manipulate for comfort. That might explain why virtual popping on cell phones or screens doesn't have quite the same effect.

13. Bubble Wrap was a Toy Hall of Fame finalist in 2016.

Child popping Bubble Wrap.
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Popping Bubble Wrap has become such a beloved pastime that the National Toy Hall of Fame once considered it for inclusion. In 2016, the Strong Museum in Rochester, New York nominated Bubble Wrap along with Care Bears, Dungeons & Dragons, and other playthings for induction. Bubble Wrap didn't make the cut, but for a "toy" that is essentially nothing but air, it must have been an honor just to be considered.

14. You can opt for fancy versions of Bubble Wrap.

Bubble Wrap with heart shapes.
Aimee Ray, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Bored with conventional Bubble Wrap? Sealed Air also manufactures sheets with air cushions shaped like letters that spell out "happy holidays" and chambers shaped like hearts or smiley faces.

15. Sealed air once made golden wrap.

Gold Bubble Wrap.
Delyth Angharad, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Bubble Wrap's debut as a shipping staple, Sealed Air released a special commemorative golden Bubble Wrap in 2010.

16. One bride wore a bubble wrap wedding dress.

Woman laying down, wearing bubble wrap.
Felipe Neves, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

With an eye on a sustainable gown for her wedding, England native Rachael Robinson decided to opt for a Bubble Wrap-crafted dress in May 2010. The dress was made at the school Robinson taught at for a fashion show of recyclable materials. It featured a three-foot Bubble Wrap train. (She wore a more conventional dress at a second ceremony.)

17. Norway uses Bubble Wrap to prevent hypothermia.

Emergency responders carrying a stretcher in the snow.
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When transporting critically ill patients, Norwegian emergency medicine technicians sometimes use Bubble Wrap to prevent hypothermia in the frigid climate. In 2009, a study was conducted to determine Bubble Wrap's efficacy in heat retention in mannequins. It was found to be only 69 percent as effective as blankets, or about the equivalent of a sleeping bag.

18. Bubble Wrap made the cover of Playboy in 1997.

Portrait of Farrah Fawcett.
Frank Micelotta, Getty Images

Proving that Bubble Wrap has unlimited uses, actress Farrah Fawcett posed wearing only a run of the see-through material for a 1997 Playboy cover and interior photo spread. Because the Wrap left nothing to the imagination, Fawcett's cover was shipped only to subscribers.

19. The Bubble Wrap factory is like an oven.

Sheet of Bubble Wrap
iStock

To churn out the miles of Bubble Wrap produced yearly, Sealed Air’s factory in Elmwood Park, New Jersey can be a bit stifling. The machines use resin to create the sheets at temperatures of 560 degrees, making the air around it "sweat-inducing."

20. Bubble Wrap is in the Museum Of Modern Art.

Close-up of Bubble Wrap.
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In 2004, the Museum of Modern Art accepted a donation from Sealed Air of a nearly 12-inch by 12-inch square of Bubble Wrap into their Architecture and Design collection. It went on display as part of their Humble Masterpieces collection, which also featured chopsticks and the Band-Aid.

21. Amazon may ship your bubble wrap in protective packaging.

Curl of brown paper over Bubble Wrap.
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A bizarre photo of a Bubble Wrap order covered in shipping paper made the viral rounds in 2015, with people puzzled why Amazon would need to protect protective packaging material. One possible answer: because the roll didn't take up the entire box, shippers reinforced the empty space with additional packing material so the cardboard wouldn't collapse and send stacked boxes above it tumbling.

22. Bubble Wrap has inspired young inventors.

Young girl with a
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Back in 2007, Sealed Air sponsored a Bubble Wrap Competition for Young Inventors, encouraging grade school students to find alternative uses for their celebrated product. Among the ideas: using a layer of Wrap as a building material to absorb shock on floors; as a rest pad for carpal tunnel sufferers; and as a wallpaper designed to stimulate children with autism. The annual contest ran through 2010.

23. Bubble Wrap inspired a book.

Published in the 1998, The Bubble Wrap Book took a novel look at alternative uses for Bubble Wrap. Some were clearly intended for satirical purposes—like stuffing your wallet with the stuff to impress dates—while others may find some practical use. Making a mat out of Bubble Wrap could, in theory, alert you to a burglar.

24. You can buy a Bubble Wrap calendar.

Bored with marking off days with a big red X? Sealed Air licenses day calendars that allow consumers to punctuate dates by popping a giant bubble instead.

25. You can still use Bubble Wrap as insulation.

Globe wrapped in Bubble Wrap.
iStock

Sealed Air doesn't officially endorse its use as insulation, but Bubble Wrap can indeed do what its inventors aspired toward back in the 1950s. Using the packaging material around windows can help retain heat indoors and help keep homes cool during summer, with the trapped air in the bubbles having a thermal retention effect. This assumes you can keep from popping them.

26. Bubble Wrap appreciation day comes every january.

A man and a woman jump on a pile of Bubble Wrap in their living room
Paul Bradbury iStock via Getty Images

Mark it on your Bubble Wrap calendar. The “holiday” was invented by an Indiana radio station that inadvertently broadcast ASMR-like sounds when they opened a shipment of new microphones wrapped in the stuff.

27. Bubble Wrap had a noisy cameo in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective ...

28. ... a Touching cameo in WALL·E ...

29. ... and a hilarious cameo in Naked Gun 33 1/3.

30. Bubble Wrap goes great with chocolate.

Bars of chocolate piled on a gray table.
serezniy iStock via Getty Images

Spreading melted chocolate on a piece of Bubble Wrap and letting it harden creates a honeycomb-like pattern when the wrap is peeled off. Chocolatiers and bakers use this technique to create luxurious and impressive-looking treats and garnishes with very little time and effort.

31. Not all Bubble Wrap is created equally.

A swirl of colored light behind Bubble Wrap.
Helen Davies iStock via Getty Images

It comes in bubble sizes that range from 1/8” to 3/16”. When it comes to shipping, smaller bubbles keep items protected from scratches and scrapes, while larger bubbles are more effective for preventing damage from impact.

32. Bubble Wrap is made in 52 countries, and there's a lot of it.

Rolls of Bubble Wrap stacked
Valerii Maksimov iStock via Getty Images

Bubble Wrap is made in 52 countries. Every year, enough of the poppable stuff is made that it could wrap around the equator 10 times, or make it to the moon and back.

33. Bubble Wrap is hardly the only product that Sealed Air makes.

Bubble Wrap sheet in front of a black background
Kichigin iStock via Getty Images

Still, today, Bubble Wrap makes up just 2 percent of the Sealed Air’s sales. They’ve diversified their portfolio to include products like medical packaging solutions and a diverse array of food packaging products.

34. Bubble Wrap is Cryovac's cousin.

Yellow containers in front of an industrial machine for sealing things in plastic
sergeyryzhov iStock via Getty Images

Among other things, the Sealed Air company also owns Cryovac, a thin plastic that is shrink-wrapped around food and other items. They claim to be the company that invented vacuum sealing.

35. Bubble Wrap might be as good as a massage.

A woman with her eyes closed getting a neck massage.
Prostock-Studio iStock via Getty Images

You’re not imagining the psychological, stress-relieving benefits that come with popping Bubble Wrap. In 2012, the Bubble Wrap® Brand “Pop” Poll surveyed respondents and found that one minute of bubble-popping provides the stress relief equivalent to a 33-minute massage.

36. There are Bubble Wrap apps.

A man touches his finger to his smart phone screen.
Chainarong Prasertthai iStock via Getty Images

Both iPhone and Android offer Bubble Wrap apps. (No, they’re not as good as the real thing.)

37. The inventor's son was the first non-adult to pop it.

A teen girl in a yellow shirt pops Bubble Wrap
Maria Casinos iStock via Getty Images

The first person to pop bubble wrap: Howard Fielding, the inventor’s son. OK, maybe not, but he was close. “I remember looking at the stuff and my instinct was to squeeze it,” Fielding told Smithsonian Magazine. “I say I’m the first person to pop Bubble Wrap, but I’m sure it’s not true. The adults at my father’s firm likely did so for quality assurance. But I was probably the first kid. The bubbles were a lot bigger then, so they made a loud noise.”

38. Bubble Wrap popped big in the 1970s.

A pink piggy bank wrapped in Bubble Wrap
sqback iStock via Getty Images

Until 1971, Sealed Air was a relatively modest company, turning a profit of just $5 million. That’s when T.J. Dermot Dunphy was named CEO, and under his direction, the firm grew to $3 billion in sales by the time he left in 2000.

39. Bubble Wrap's inventors are in the New Jersey inventors Hall of Fame.

A man in suspenders and a hat writing the solution to a complex math problem on a large chalkboard.
francescoch iStock via Getty Images

In 1993, inventors Marc Chavannes and Alfred Fielding received a coveted spot in the New Jersey Inventors Hall of Fame for their Bubble Wrap contributions. Other honorees include Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein.

40. Sealed Air employees know the value of Bubble Wrap's stress relief.

A man holds a sheet of Bubble Wrap tightly.
dekru iStock via Getty Images

According to The New York Times, at one point, employees at Sealed Air each received a small box of individual squares of Bubble Wrap to keep at their desks for emergency stress relief. (No word on whether this is still standard practice.)

41. Higher learning institutions recognize Bubble Wrap's mental health benefits, too.

Hands pop Bubble Wrap at a table with coffee.
alexeys iStock via Getty Images

The Bubble Wrap manufacturer isn’t the only organization to see the value in stress-popping. In 2019, The University of Bristol in England provided students with squares of Bubble Wrap to help relieve anxiety. In response to concerns about sustainability, the university issued a statement saying that the stunt was a clever way to reuse packing material that university furniture had come in.

42. Bubble Wrap has a massive online following.

A woman pops Bubble Wrap in front of her laptop computer.
IPGGutenbergUKLtd iStock via Getty Images

The “Popping Bubble Wrap” Facebook group has 460,000 members.

43. There's (fictional) lethal bubble wrap.

'Kerblam!' episode of 'Doctor Who'
BBC America

Kerblam!,” an episode of Doctor Who that aired in November 2018, introduced viewers to lethal Bubble Wrap.

44. Bubble Wrap has been used as a murder weapon.

The end of a sheet of Bubble Wrap
Paket iStock via Getty Images

But seriously, it really can kill. In 2017, a South Carolina man used Bubble Wrap as a murder weapon. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

45. You can buy a Bubble Wrap suit

A mother putting a helmet on a young son who is wrapped in Bubble Wrap.
D. Anschutz iStock via Getty Images

You can purchase a “bubble wrap suit.” After Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott donned bubble wrap suits in the cult movie Dude, Where’s My Car?, demand for bubble wrap suits skyrocketed. (Or at least, demand for bubble wrap suits suddenly existed.) If you can’t live without one, you can purchase the poppable attire for the surprisingly affordable price of $24.99.

46. You can make JELL-O shots with it.

If you’re very patient. Morena DIY uses a syringe to inject liquid Jell-O into a piece of Bubble Wrap with a large bubble size. After the dessert has set, she pops each one out of the makeshift mold to create dozens of dome-shaped shots.

47. Some people use Bubble Wrap to play Twister

Hands on a Twister game mat.
LIgorko iStock via Getty Images

Place some Bubble Wrap under your Twister mat for an added dimension to the party game

48. You can use Bubble Wrap to keep your pet warm.

Do not wrap your dog or cat in Bubble Wrap! But you can install it into an outdoor pet home to keep out the cold. You'll just want to keep it behind the paneling so your pooch doesn't pop it all.

49. Elon Musk thinks non-poppable Bubble Wrap is a sign of the end times.

Elon Musk called non-poppable Bubble Wrap “Clearly a sign of the apocalypse!” In 2019, four years after Sealed Air announced their non-poppable packing product iBubble, the news cycle once again picked up the story. Upon seeing the news of non-poppable Bubble Wrap on Twitter, Elon Musk professed his horror by announcing that it must be a bad omen. Fortunately for Musk and other stress poppers out there, Sealed Air continues to make traditional Bubble Wrap in addition to iBubble.

50. Bubble Wrap can help your freezer work better.

Bubble Wrap can be used to improve freezer efficiency. By filling any unused freezer space with wads of Bubble Wrap, you’ll prevent warm air from circulating, which makes your freezer work harder.

12 Good Ol' Facts About The Dukes of Hazzard

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Getty Images

When The Dukes of Hazzard premiered on January 26, 1979, it was intended to be a temporary patch in CBS’s primetime schedule until The Incredible Hulk returned. Only nine episodes were ordered, and few executives at the network had any expectation that the series—about two amiable brothers at odds with the corrupt law enforcement of Hazzard County—would become both a ratings powerhouse and a merchandising bonanza. Check out some of these lesser-known facts about the Duke boys, their extended family, and the gravity-defying General Lee.

1. CBS's chairman hated The Dukes of Hazzard.

CBS chairman William Paley never quite bought into the idea of spinning his opinion to match the company line. Having built CBS from a radio station to one of the “Big Three” television networks, he had harvested talent as diverse as Norman Lear and Lucille Ball, a marked contrast to the Southern-fried humor of The Dukes of Hazzard. In his 80s when it became a top 10 series and seeing no reason to censor himself, Paley repeatedly and publicly described the show as “lousy.”

2. The Dukes of Hazzard's General Lee got 35,000 fan letters a month.


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While John Schneider and Tom Wopat were the ostensible stars of the show, both the actors and the show's producers quickly found out that the main attraction was the 1969 Dodge Charger—dubbed the General Lee—that trafficked brothers Bo and Luke Duke from one caper to another. Of the 60,000 letters the series was receiving every month in 1981, 35,000 wanted more information on or pictures of the car.

3. Dennis Quaid wanted to be The Dukes of Hazzard's Luke Duke—on one condition.

When the show began casting in 1978, producers threw out a wide net searching for the leads. Dennis Quaid was among those interested in the role of Luke Duke—which eventually went to Wopat—but he had a condition: he would only agree to the show if his then-wife, P.J. Soles, was cast at the Dukes’ cousin, Daisy. Soles wasn’t a proper fit for the supporting part, which put Quaid off; Catherine Bach was eventually cast as Daisy.

4. John Schneider pretended to be a redneck for his Dukes of Hazzard audition.

New York native Schneider was only 18 years old when he went in to read for the role of Bo Duke. The problem: producers wanted someone 24 to 30 years old. Schneider lied about his age and passed himself off as a Southern archetype, strutting in wearing a cowboy hat, drinking a beer, and spitting tobacco. He also told them he could do stunt driving. It was a good enough performance to land him the show.

5. The Dukes of Hazzard co-stars John Schneider and Tom Wopat met while taking a poop.

After Schneider was cast, the show needed to locate an actor who could complement Bo. Stage actor Wopat was flown in for a screen test; Schneider happened to be in the bathroom when Wopat walked in after him. The two began talking about music—Schneider had seen a guitar under the stall door—and found they had an easy camaraderie. After flushing, the two did a scene. Wopat was hired immediately.

6. Daisy's Dukes needed a tweak on The Dukes of Hazzard.

Bach’s omnipresent jean shorts were such a hit that any kind of cutoffs quickly became known as “Daisy Dukes,” after her character. But they were so skimpy that the network was concerned censors wouldn’t allow them. A negotiation began, and it was eventually decided that Bach would wear some extremely sheer pantyhose to make sure there were no clothing malfunctions.

7. Nancy Reagan was fan of The Dukes of Hazzard's Daisy.

Shirley Moore, Bach’s former grade school teacher, went on to work in the White House. After Bach sent her a poster, she was surprised to hear back that then-First Lady Nancy Reagan was enamored with it. “I’m the envy of the White House and I’m having your poster framed,” Moore wrote in a letter. “Mrs. Reagan saw the picture and fell in love with it.” Bach sent more posters, which presumably became part of the decor during the Reagan administration.

8. The Dukes of Hazzard's stars had some very bizarre contract demands.

Wopat and Schneider famously walked off the series in 1982 after demanding a cut of the show’s massive merchandising revenue—which was, by one estimate, more than $190 million in 1981 alone. They were replaced with Byron Cherry and Christopher Mayer, “cousins” of the Duke boys, who were reviled by fans for being scabs. The two leads eventually came back, but it wasn’t the only time Warner Bros. had to deal with irate actors. James Best, who portrayed crooked sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane, refused to film five episodes because he had no private dressing room in which to change his clothes; the production just hosed him down when he got dirty. Ben Jones, who played “Cooter” the mechanic, briefly left because he wanted his character to sport a beard and producers preferred he be clean-shaven.

9. A miniature car was used for some stunts in The Dukes of Hazzard.

As established, the General Lee was a primary attraction for viewers of the series. For years, the show wrecked dozens of Chargers by jumping, crashing, and otherwise abusing them, which created some terrific footage. For its seventh and final season in 1985, the show turned to a miniature effects team in an effort to save on production costs: it was cheaper to mangle a Hot Wheels-sized model than the real thing. “It was a source of embarrassment to all of us on the show,” Wopat told E!.

10. The Dukes of Hazzard's famous "hood slide" was an accident.

A staple—and, eventually, cliché—of action films everywhere, the slide over the hood was popularized by Tom Wopat. While it may have been tempting to take credit, Wopat said it was unintentional and that the first time he tried clearing the hood, the car’s antenna wound up injuring him.

11. The Dukes of Hazzard cartoon went international.


YouTube

Warner Bros. capitalized on the show’s phenomenal popularity with an animated series, The Dukes, which was produced by Hanna-Barbera and aired in 1983. Taking advantage of the form, the Duke boys traveled internationally, racing Boss Hogg through Greece or Hong Kong. Perhaps owing to the fact that the live-action series was already considered enough of a cartoon, the animated series only lasted 20 episodes.

12. In 2015, Warner Bros. banned the Confederate flag from The Dukes of Hazzard merchandising.

At the time the series originally aired, little was made of the General Lee sporting a Confederate flag on its hood. In 2015, after then-South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley spoke out against the depiction of the flag in popular culture, Warner Bros. elected to stop licensing products with the original roof. The company announced that all future Dukes merchandise would drop the design element. Schneider disagreed with the decision, telling The Hollywood Reporter, “Is the flag used as such in other applications? Yes, but certainly not on the Dukes ... Labeling anyone who has the flag a ‘racist’ seems unfair to those who are clearly ‘never meanin’ no harm.'”

10 Fascinating Facts About Chinese New Year

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iStock.com/aluxum

Some celebrants call it the Spring Festival, a stretch of time that signals the progression of the lunisolar Chinese calendar; others know it as the Chinese New Year. For a 15-day period beginning January 25 in 2020, China will welcome the Year of the Rat, one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac table.

Sound unfamiliar? No need to worry: Check out 10 facts about how one-sixth of the world's total population rings in the new year.

1. Chinese New Year was originally meant to scare off a monster.

Nian at Chinese New Year
iStock.com/jjMiller11

As legend would have it, many of the trademarks of the Chinese New Year are rooted in an ancient fear of Nian, a ferocious monster who would wait until the first day of the year to terrorize villagers. Acting on the advice of a wise old sage, the townspeople used loud noises from drums, fireworks, and the color red to scare him off—all remain components of the celebration today.

2. A lot of families use Chinese New Year as motivation to clean the house.

woman ready to clean a home
iStock.com/PRImageFactory

While the methods of honoring the Chinese New Year have varied over the years, it originally began as an opportunity for households to cleanse their quarters of "huiqi," or the breaths of those that lingered in the area. Families performed meticulous cleaning rituals to honor deities that they believed would pay them visits. The holiday is still used as a time to get cleaning supplies out, although the work is supposed to be done before it officially begins.

3. Chinese New Year will prompt billions of trips.

Man waiting for a train.
iStock.com/MongkolChuewong

Because the Chinese New Year places emphasis on family ties, hundreds of millions of people will use the Lunar period to make the trip home. Accounting for cars, trains, planes, and other methods of transport, the holiday is estimated to prompt nearly three billion trips over the 15-day timeframe.

4. Chinese New Year involves a lot of superstitions.

Colorful pills and medications
iStock.com/FotografiaBasica

While not all revelers subscribe to embedded beliefs about what not to do during the Chinese New Year, others try their best to observe some very particular prohibitions. Visiting a hospital or taking medicine is believed to invite ill health; lending or borrowing money will promote debt; crying children can bring about bad luck.

5. Some people rent boyfriends or girlfriends for Chinese New Year to soothe their parents.

Young Asian couple smiling
iStock.com/RichVintage

In China, it's sometimes frowned upon to remain single as you enter your thirties. When singles return home to visit their parents, some will opt to hire a person to pose as their significant other in order to make it appear like they're in a relationship and avoid parental scolding. Rent-a-boyfriends or girlfriends can get an average of $145 a day.

6. Red envelopes are everywhere during Chinese New Year.

a person accepting a red envelope
iStock.com/Creative-Family

An often-observed tradition during Spring Festival is to give gifts of red envelopes containing money. (The color red symbolizes energy and fortune.) New bills are expected; old, wrinkled cash is a sign of laziness. People sometimes walk around with cash-stuffed envelopes in case they run into someone they need to give a gift to. If someone offers you an envelope, it's best to accept it with both hands and open it in private.

7. Chinese New Year can create record levels of smog.

fireworks over Beijing's Forbidden City
iStock.com/lusea

Fireworks are a staple of Spring Festival in China, but there's more danger associated with the tradition than explosive mishaps. Cities like Beijing can experience a 15-fold increase in particulate pollution. In 2016, Shanghai banned the lighting of fireworks within the metropolitan area.

8. Black clothes are a bad omen during Chinese New Year.

toddler dressed up for Chinese New Year
iStock.com/lusea

So are white clothes. In China, both black and white apparel is traditionally associated with mourning and are to be avoided during the Lunar month. The red, colorful clothes favored for the holiday symbolize good fortune.

9. Chinese New Year leads to planes being stuffed full of cherries.

Bowl of cherries
iStock.com/CatLane

Cherries are such a popular food during the Festival that suppliers need to go to extremes in order to meet demand. In 2017, Singapore Airlines flew four chartered jets to Southeast and North Asian areas. More than 300 tons were being delivered in time for the festivities.

10. Panda Express is hoping Chinese New Year will catch on in America.

Box of takeout Chinese food from Panda Express
domandtrey, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Although their Chinese food menu runs more along the lines of Americanized fare, the franchise Panda Express is still hoping the U.S. will get more involved in the festival. The chain is promoting the holiday in its locations by running ad spots and giving away a red envelope containing a gift: a coupon for free food. Aside from a boost in business, Panda Express hopes to raise awareness about the popular holiday in North America.

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