What Is China's CCTV New Year’s Gala?

春节联欢晚会 (Spring Festival Gala)

Chinese New Year decorations at a storefront.

angusfrasermktg/Pixabay

Since 1983, Chinese families have sat down to wrap dumplings and watch CCTV’s "New Year’s Gala" on television on Chinese New Year's Eve. It’s a Chinese New Year’s Eve tradition that nearly every family in China participates in to ring in the New Year.

What Is the CCTV New Year’s Gala Like?

The "New Year’s Gala" features a variety of skits and performances. While the performers change annually, the format of the show is mostly consistent, with some of the most popular performers returning year after year. The show has also made celebrities out of first-time performers. The show features four CCTV hosts who introduce the various acts and participate in some skits and xiangsheng acts.

A typical "CCTV New Year’s Gala" includes:

  • Skits (小品): Short, comedic skits that revolve around New Year’s interactions and convey positive messages, such as respect for the elderly.
  • Xiangsheng (相声): Xiangsheng, or "crosstalk," is a popular form of Chinese comedic dialogue.
  • Song and dance (歌舞): From classical and folk songs to pop, most music genres are included in the show. Some acts mix song and dance, while others feature solo singers or dance troupes. Traditional songs from every Chinese minority are also featured in the "CCTV New Year’s Gala."
  • Acrobatics (杂技): China is famous for its acrobats, whose gymnastic feats are annually included on the show.
  • Magic tricks (魔术): Mostly performed by foreign magicians, some acts feature magic tricks.
  • Chinese opera (戏剧): Chinese opera is a short segment in the show and features several opera styles, including Peking opera, Yue opera, Henan opera, and Sichuan opera.
  • Countdown to the New Year: Just before midnight, the hosts lead a countdown to midnight. A bell is rung at the stroke of midnight.
  • "Can’t Forget Tonight" (难忘今宵): This closing song is sung at the end of every "CCTV New Year’s Gala" show.

The show is not complete without some political element that often includes photo montages of Communist Party members, including Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, set to patriotic music.

During the night, there are hotlines for viewers to call in and place their votes for their favorite acts. The top acts, based on votes, are featured the "CCTV Lantern Gala," which airs 15 days after New Year's on the Lantern Festival.

Who Performs on the New Year’s Gala?

While the performers change annually, the format of the show is mostly consistent year after year, with some of the most popular performers returning every year. Some unknown performers have become overnight celebrities in China after appearing on the show:

  • Dashan (大山): Canadian Mark Roswell is a performer and television host who rose to fame after performing in fluent Mandarin in a xiangsheng skit on the gala in 1988.
  • Fan Wei (范伟): A sitcom and movie actor, Fan has performed skits on the gala every year since 1995.
  • Feng Gong (冯巩): An actor who regularly performs xiangsheng on the gala.
  • Peng Liyuan (彭丽媛): One of China's most beloved folk singers, Peng appeared regularly until 2007.
  • Song Dandan (宋丹丹): A comedic actress who became a household name after her performance in a skit on the 1989 gala show. She has appeared every year since 1989.
  • Song Zuying (宋祖英): A Chinese singer who has performed at the gala for several years.
  • Zhao Benshan (赵本山): A sitcom actor, Zhao has performed skits on the gala every year since 1987, except in 1994.

How Many People Watch the New Year’s Gala?

Over 700 million people watch the "CCTV New Year’s Gala," making it the most watched show in China.

Where Can You Watch It?

The show airs live 8 pm on December 31 and ends at 12:30 pm on January 1 on CCTV-1. The ​"CCTV New Year’s Gala" is also shown on satellite channels, CCTV-4, CCTV-9, CCTV-E, CCTV-F, and CCTV-HD.