Chinese New Year is THE biggy round here. No surprise really. It’s bigger than Christmas, Halloween and the other New Year, all of which are celebrated on a pretty lavish scale themselves.
There was a 5 day weekend, the kids got a week off school, most Chinese businesses, certainly in mainland China, shut down for the week and China sees the biggest movement of people in the world at one time, as everyone heads back to their families in remote parts of China. The newspapers here were full of pictures of overcrowded stations, trains and motorways. They showed people sleeping practically on top of each other as they travelled by train for days to reach their home town. I’m sure these pictures aren’t spread around the world, just as I’m sure that the horsemeat debacle in Europe isn’t big news in Hong Kong, more of a delicacy! Nonetheless, the papers here were full of the stories and pictures for days and it was quite jawdropping.
Despite all the public holidays and the kids being off school, we opted to stay in Hong Kong rather than go on holiday anywhere. We wanted to get caught up in the madness and see it and experience it for ourselves.
Every apartment building, shop and office was adorned with red lanterns, flowers and orange trees, all symbols of good luck, as well as an abundance of flashing lights. It put Christmas to shame, it really did! And now, weeks later, places are reluctant to take it all down and feel normal again, hence the slightly rancid smell of flowers past their prime and mouldy fruit trees that is now lingering just under the pollution haze of Hong Kong.
At Chinese New Year, it’s customary to give lai see which is a red envelope containing money that you pass on to people to wish them luck for the coming year. We were told that the more lai see you give, the more luck you will have yourself in the coming year. It is not how much you give to a person that is important but how many times you give. Yeah right. That belief may well have originated a gazillion years ago in deepest China but I’m not sure the Hong Kongers of 2013 see it like that! Still, we did our bit, wishing doormen and the like Kung Hei Fat Choi in the mumbling embarrassed way that only a Brit could. Oh, and the money has to be new. Brand new and crisp. Dan thought I was joking when I told him he had to go to the bank and actually ask for money in brand new crisp notes. If the amount doesn’t matter, then surely the condition of the ‘amount’ shouldn’t either but apparently it does. The bank was ready for him, that’s for sure!
On the last day of school before the break, the kids had to go in Chinese dress. I had great fun browsing the markets choosing their outfits and they loved them! Josh particularly loved wearing what was basically silky pyjamas all day! And they each came home with home-made lanterns & fans, chocolate money from Eden’s teacher, real money from Joshua’s (!) and they had a blast.
From then on, the rest of the weekend was like any other long weekend really! Except we substituted seeing family with seeing friends. Yes, there was a huge lion dance New Year parade that we could have gone to. That would have involved either getting there early for a good view then having to keep the kids amused for hours whilst we waited for it to start. Or we could have got there in time for the start, had a bad view and probably not seen much! Neither of those options seemed very appealing and I only found out about the grandstand seat option too late!
There was a huge firework display over Victoria Harbour, lasting over 20 minutes. It was truly spectacular and that event we did go to. Minus the kids. We weren’t going to take Eden out late at night and Josh hates fireworks so Dan and I headed off on our own to meet up with a couple of other families whose kids are older and braver than ours! Luckily someone knew of a relatively secret vantage point where we had a great view and all dispersed again afterwards!
My parents have already committed to Chinese New Year in Hong Kong for 2014 and my instructions have been given – get grandstand seats for the parade and book a restaurant with a good view of the fireworks! Mission Impossible? We’ll see!
Other than that, we did fun things with friends including an afternoon of bowling, yet another family day at Ocean Park, nice meals out, as few as possible meals in and a day at Inspiration Lake at Disneyland with many other families from school where all the kids rode their bikes round & round the lake, played football, ate picnics and we all got more than a little unexpectedly sunburnt!
The nicest surprise was when we returned from our day at Inspiration Lake to find a proper Lion Dance going on in the car park of our apartment building! I had no idea it was going to happen but we arrived just in time and it was amazing and we didn’t even need grandstand seats!! Apparently it happens every year, complete with suckling pig for everyone! Everyone who wants it that is …!