Chinese New Year is my favourite of the Chinese festivals, and as important to us as Christmas is to many Europeans. To celebrate this significant festival, Chinese people will usually spend time at home with their families and relatives, and practice many traditions and rituals.
Here are some suggestions to help you enjoy a traditional Chinese New Year in Hong Kong!
1. Preparing traditional food
Chinese people usually make some traditional foods uniquely for different festivals, each of which has a unique and fortune-bringing name which relates to things like prosperity, growth, and happiness. Several kinds of cakes are made for the Chinese New Year because "cake" sounds similar to "growth" in Mandarin and Cantonese. These include carrot cake, rice cake, golden cake (pumpkin cake), and taro cake. In addition, we will eat deep-fried snacks because they are golden in colour and therefore represent prosperity.
2. Gathering for dinner
Preceding CNY is the busiest time for businessmen and women. Entrepreneurs will have dinner with their colleagues and employees to maintain a good relationship in the coming year. However, watch out...if a whole chicken is brought to the table that its head is not pointing to you, as that means you will be fired in the coming year! On 29th or 30th, we usually have dinner with family members then go to 'year market' with partners and children.
3. New Look and clothes
To celebrate the CNY, Chinese loves to dress themselves up with new clothes and shoes, signifying a fresh new beginning. Also, you may have noticed that your Chinese colleagues have recently had a haircut... This is because hair represents money to the Chinese so it’s frowned on to have it cut during the festive period. There’s always a rush for those that forgot in the New Year!
4. Clean and Decorate (2 days before CNY)
Traditionally Chinese people clean our houses on the 28th. This is a major operation, moving all the furnishings, throwing out all the clutter and junk. It’s basically like moving home!
After this operation, decoration is the next step. Chinese love to decorate with the lucky colours being red and gold. Other common decorations include:
- "Folk" (means luckiness) on a square
- Fortune sentence in four words written on red paper
- A snack box with sweets, seeds and tangerines
- New home and living decorations like cushion covers, table cloths, etc.
- Blooming and beautiful plants like flowers, bamboo, and small tangerine trees
5. Year Market/ Flower Market (the last 4 days in the year)
In Hong Kong, the largest year market is located in Victoria Park. You will find traditional decorations, clothes, toys, balloons, flowers, snacks, etc. Parents would always bring their little children, but nowadays you are just as likely to see friends and couples perusing the stalls.
Most of the toys or decorations have lucky connotations as well as representing current trends. As the Year of the Goat, this New Year there will be lots of products related to the goat. Never wasting an opportunity, some products may also have political meanings!
On another side of the market is the plant market, where you will find nice ornaments for your home. If you want to have good interpersonal relationship (or romantic relationship) next year, buy a Peach blossom tree (Chinese: “Tao Fa” ) in heavy bloom and walk around it anti-clockwise. For business growth or career promotion, buy bamboo, whilst a tangerine tree will enhance your financial situation.
6. Sweet blessings to family, relatives and friends
During CNY, people visit relatives and friends with blessings, this is followed by the collection of red packets from married elder couples. A red packet (Chinese: “Lai Si”) is basically banknotes put in a red envelope (nowadays often gold or purple, but never black and white) for children, younger relatives or colleagues. The dress code is red and new. Don’t forget to bring gifts like chocolate, cookies, sweets, etc. with you to repay the “Lai Si” you have collected.
7. Do’s & Don’ts in the Chinese New Year
To avoid bad luck and increase fortune we give best wishes, eat food with a lucky name or go to the temple at midnight for consecration.
In the past, Chinese used to have a lot of restrictions on the first day of the year. For example, washing your hair and having meat was forbidden. This is no longer observed as much.
8. It's a Celebration Extravaganza!
Hong Kong's Chinese New Year celebration was recently listed by Forbes as one of the world's 10 best festival extravaganzas, along with Germany's Oktoberfest and Brazil's Carnival. Why is it so great? Lots of different activities and shows take place in Hong Kong over the Chinese New Year.
Day 1: On the 19 February 2015 (Chinese New Year's Day), you can go to the Chinese New Year Night Parade. Illuminated floats and magnificent international and local performing groups provide an amazing spectacle.
Day 2: You can go to the Harbour side to enjoy the firework show (or watch it on TV if you don’t like crowds!) It is a spectacular and iconic sight to see the fireworks over the harbour and one we feel very proud of. The pyrotechnics are designed specially. Look out for golden bullions or lucky tangerines in the sky.
Day 3: 100,000 people head to Sha Tin Racecourse on the third day of the holidays. There is a grand opening show and the featured race of the day is the Chinese New Year Cup.
9. Short Break from the family
Ever practical, the Chinese believe that after visiting friends and relatives on the first and second day, you might need a bit of ‘me time’. This is to avoid quarrels and getting off on the wrong foot in the new year. Therefore, some people stay at home and get ready for the next working day. However, the more energetic Hong Kongers will not waste any holiday and head out.
10. First working day in the New Year
Get a brand new start after the Chinese New Year in the workplace, every employee should receive a big red packet from their manager. The amount of "Lai Si" is representative of the generosity and wealth of the boss. Good bosses usually pay more! Some companies will also offer staff a bonding dinner or lunch for togetherness in the New Year.
Get in touch with us if you want a change in the coming year. Sun lin fei lok, or Kung hei fat choi as we say in Hong Kong!
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