It’s not long now until we’ll all be saying Happy New Year again, but this time we’ll be celebrating the Chinese Lunar New Year. As most of you know this is the biggest festival in Chinese culture, and traditionally New Year is a time to catch up with family and wish each other well for the year ahead.
You will hear people saying Kung Hei Fat Choy to each other. This is the typical greeting used and roughly translates to “be prosperous in the new year”. Apart from jo san this is probably the next easiest Cantonese phrase so get practicing!
If this is your first year in HK here are some ideas to help you get started with celebrating the Chinese New Year in the 852.
Visit the Hong Kong Flower Market and at the same time get some red paper decorations
Just like the Christmas tree in the western world, we have some lucky plants which hold auspicious meanings, such as the Cherry and Plum Blossom plants, both of which represent the promise of new life. One can never have too many flowers so get shopping!
You may have already started to see decorations springing up in your apartment block, in the shops and out on the streets. The tradition of hanging up red paper decorations (known as fai chuns) on windows and doors is believed to bring good fortune and health to everyone in the household. The decorations are mostly red because this is the luckiest colour in Chinese culture (I wonder if this is relevant to JLL too?!). You can get decorations at this market, small stationery stores, toy shops, even florists and of course at most supermarkets.
Date & Time: 2 – 8 February, noon to midnight at Victoria Park
Watch a Lion Dance or 3
Until you have seen a lion dance in person, you have not experienced one of the best displays of the Chinese culture – youtube doesn’t count! It is one of my favourite parts of the celebrations and always makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up on end! We believe that the lions, alongside the drums and firecrackers will scare away evil spirits and bad luck. Lion dances are performed in lots of places. You might get to see one at your place of work, when you’re out shopping or even in your building! When you watch one, have the courage (or get your little one) to put a lai see in the mouth of the lion – it is good luck! Celebrations will continue for 15 days starting on New Year’s Day, so it is easy to catch one.
Give red packets
If you’re married you must give out lai see as a gesture of good fortune to your unmarried colleagues, friends, friend’s children and acquaintances. You can buy lai see envelopes almost anywhere in the 852 at the moment. I suggest getting different colours, sizes or designs for the different amounts of money you have in each packet as it helps you remember which ones are which. I always have some with HK$20, HK$50 and that lucky red HK$100 but also PLEASE remember to make sure that the notes are clean and crisp. Try saying sun tai geen hong when handing (with both hands) over your envelopes – this means “may you have good health” When you receive a lai see then make sure you say Kung Hei Fat Choy. If your little one receives a lai see it is customary to also give one to that child (or the parent if their child is not with them!)
Try some traditional foods
One of my favourite foods is actually available all year round but the turnip or radish cake is a New Year staple. It’s made from rice flour and radish which in Cantonese also means “good fortune”.
A little biased but go and see what I believe are the best fireworks in the world
Don’t miss one of the main events – the half an hour firework display over Victoria Harbour. This year it is on at 8pm on Tuesday 9th February. Some good viewing spots include Tsim Sha Tsui promenade, Hung Hom Bypass, West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade, Central Waterfront Promenade, Hong Kong Convention Centre Promenade and Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai, the top of IFC Mall and of course, Victoria Park. Wherever you decide, remember to get there early and wrap up warm – even the amount of people that you will be huddled up with will not make up for a warm jacket!
I would love to hear what some of your favourite things are to do over this holiday so please let me know. This year I will be venturing over to Macau with good friends and of course Chu San and Callum – I am looking forward to the break but will of course be home for those fireworks!
Kung Hei Fat Choy