Five ‘Must-Dos’ During the Chinese Lunar New Year in Hong Kong

Five 'must dos' during the Chinese Lunar New Year in Hong Kong. (Image: Monica Song)
Five 'must dos' during the Chinese Lunar New Year in Hong Kong. (Image: Monica Song)

This year, the Chinese Lunar New Year falls on January 28, which is the Year of the Rooster, according to the Chinese lunar calendar. The last day of this 15-day festive event is the Lantern Festival. It’s on this day that people eat and share glutinous rice balls.

Chinese New Year decoration for year of Rooster. (Image: Monica Song)

A Chinese New Year decoration for the Year of the Rooster. (Image: Monica Song)

The following five customs and activities are an integral part of Hong Kong’s Chinese New Year celebrations:

1. Greet others using popular Chinese phrases

If you want to impress your Chinese friends, say: “Kung Hei Fat Choy!” (with a Cantonese pronuncition), which means: “I wish you a prosperous New Year!”

Another popular phrase is: “Sun Tai Kin Hong” (again, using a Cantonese pronunciation), which means: “I wish you good health.” This phrase is usually said while presenting someone with a red pocket, which is a red envelope containing a monetary gift.

2. Give away red pockets

Youngsters and single people enjoy receiving a special red pocket called lee shi or hong bao, which consists of brand new, uncirculated banknotes.

It is not unusual for the heads of companies or bosses to give red pockets to their staff. It’s a way of thanking them for their diligent and conscientious work during the year.

How much money should you put in a red pocket?

  • 20 yuan (approximately US$3) for an acquaintance, such as a mailman or doorman.
  • 40-50 yuan for your children’s school bus driver, teacher, or your hairdresser.
  • 100 yuan for your neighbors’ children, your friends’ children, someone you know who is financially strapped, or a person who may have helped you out in the past.
  • 200-500 yuan for your office staff.
Red packet envelopes. (Image: Monica Song)

Red pocket envelopes. (Image: Monica Song)

3. Buy flowers and fireworks

It’s an ancient Chinese custom to buy flowers for the New Year, as flowers help create a holiday atmosphere. People often buy “orange pot flowers,” which are beautiful orange flowers sold in a decorative pot. They are traditionally associated with a prosperous family.

Fireworks and firecrackers are believed to drive away evil spirits. Most families set them off at exactly 12 midnight. However, large-scale fireworks displays are usually set off around 9 pm.

4. Watch a dragon and lion dance troupe

Usually, on the second or fifth day of the Chinese New Year, dragon or lion dance troupes will beat their drums and dance in front of restaurants and retail shops. It’s believed that doing this will increase business for the owner. Shop and restaurant owners will then give red pockets to each member of the troupe.

(Image: Monica Song)

A dragon decoration. (Image: Monica Song)

5. Indulge in delicious food

Traditionally, families gather together on Chinese New Year’s Eve to feast on various tantalizing fish dishes. Fish in Chinese is called yu, which denotes the hope that “the entire family will have a surplus of everything throughout the year.”

Of course, no Chinese New Year’s Eve feast would be complete without glutinous rice cakes, which symbolize the hope that one’s circumstances will continually improve.

Written by Monica and sourced from playtime.com.hk.

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