As travelers and tourists, one of the most desired times to visit Hong Kong is during the Chinese New Year. It is a three day affair of lavish celebrations and travelers have shared the very best of experiences of Hong Kong during this time of the year. However, have you wondered, how the locals celebrate Chinese New Year in Hong Kong. It is just 3 days or it means something more.
My friend and Hong Kong resident Payal (who is guest author for’The Hong Kong Chapter’ series on this blog) shares how the locals celebrate Chinese New Year in Hong Kong.
Chinese New Year aka Lunar New Year is the most festive time in Hong Kong. We have 3 days public holiday- First, Second and Third day of the New Lunar Year. It is a time for celebrations, family dinners, filling your tummies with traditional food and giving lai- see.
The preparations start a month back. So from Jan little by little every building, mall and house starts to clean and decorate. Houses are traditionally cleaned from corner to corner, which reminds me of Diwali cleaning in India. The adornments are mostly red in colour and some of them have wishes for good health, prosperity, plenty written on them in Chinese calligraphy. Decorations also include mandarin orange plants which are placed at the entrance of houses, malls and buildings. My building looked spectacular dressed like a bride.
Hong Kong has a spectacular display of fireworks on the 2nd day of Chinese New Year (CNY). This year we went to see it. The fireworks starts at 8pm but if you want to get a good spot you have to be early. We were at the waterfront at 6pm and so we secured a good spot. There are quite a few viewing places around the waterfront like the Central Ferry pier, Wanchai waterfront and the most popular one is Tsim Sha Tsui. It was like a mini picnic out there. Many families had got mats and chairs to sit on and plenty of food to eat. There were a lot of tourists who has specially travelled to Hong Kong to witness CNY celebrations. By 8pm the place was pretty crowded.
The fireworks started at promptly at 8pm and lasted for around 25mins. There were 3 barges in the sea from where the fireworks were remotely detonated. It was stunning display and simply breathtaking.
Lai-see(aka Red pocket)- The market is flooded with pretty lai-see envelopes of various sizes. Usually they are red, maroon and gold in colour. These days a lot of cartoon characters are featured on the envelopes. I guess they are popular with kids. At many departmental stores and popular brands they give you a bunch of lai-see envelopes when you purchase some items. According to Chinese zodiac signs, this New Year is the year of monkey so I saw a lot of lai-see with designs of monkey. The theme of decorations in various malls was in line with
the year of the monkey. People usually go to the bank well in advance to get new bank notes in all denominations. It is custom to give new currency notes. But for us Sid got the new notes from his office. We had to fill in the CNY currency notes requirement in December. People usually give lai-see to relatives, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Lai-see symbolises auspiciousness and wealth, so to give them to those around you means that you’re wishing them good fortune and prosperity in the year to come. My friend told me that traditionally people used to put a small note of good wishes hand written for your loved ones. Now it’s mostly money. The red packets are bestowed from “big to small,” “old to young”, and “senior to junior.” it’s expected for bosses or managers to gift their employees with lai see; the same goes with the expectation for residents of apartment blocks to hand out lai see to the building’s security guards. Married couples also give to their single friends and younger relatives. So Sid and I like most non-Chinese people in HK followed this tradition of giving lai-se
Wish you all an exciting and action packed Year of the Monkey – Happy Chinese New Year!!