Normally, the holiday brings out the festive nature of the Chinese but recent economic problems seem to be dampening the mood.
"We would estimate spending would be off 20 to 30 percent this year, which is rather critical for quite a large number of retailers and certainly restaurants," said Sam Mulligan, director of market research firm Data-Driven Marketing Asia.
Chinese companies have been scaling down their workforces as the economy sours. Also, thousands of factories in the southeastern China that made toys, shoes and other goods for export have closed, and the now-jobless migrants they employed have returned to their villages without annual bonuses to pay for New Year gifts and festivities.
One company that annually sent their top employees on an expense-paid trip to Macau said it planned to eliminate the trip and have a private dinner at home.
"We feel the worst is yet to come," said the manager, who noted that the new year will be the Year of the Ox, that stands for "calm, hard work and risk-aversion."