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Chinese New Year in Hong Kong

After most of us have finally gotten out of our compulsory arrival quarantine in Hong Kong, we are happy to celebrate the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival together

The Chinese New Year celebrates the beginning of a new year on the traditional Chinese calendar. This year we are leaving the year of the Ox behind and entering the year of the Tiger. In the Chinese zodiac it is associated with bravery and strength. Previous years of the Tiger were 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 2010 and now 2022. While 2010 was a Gold Tiger year, 2022 is a every 60 years occurring Water year, signifying ambition, competitive spirit, impulsiveness and communication.

The history of the Lunar New Year is over 3,000 years old. One legend tells of the mythical beast Nian (sounding the same as 'year' in Mandarin), which shows up every Lunar New Year's Eve to eat people and livestock. To scare away the beast, people used red paper and clothes and lit candles.

Today, the practices somewhat resemble the traditions from the tale. The festivities are kicked off by cleaning the house in order to sweep away the bad luck of the preceding year and make room to receive good luck. Furthermore, many people visit their ancestors' graves before the Chinese New Year's day, to honor them before the reunion with the living family. Then on the Lunar New Years eve, everyone comes together for a traditional dinner with family or other loved ones. Food that is served is fish for prosperity, dumplings and spring rolls for wealth, longevity noodles, sweet rice balls (Tangyuan) for togetherness, rice cake (niangao) for a promotion and good fortune fruits.

The dinner is followed by fireworks, meant to scare away the evil and welcome the new year's arrival. There are also so-called lion dances, that have people in dragon costumes, with incredibly heavy masks dancing down on the street in a parade, performed to bring luck and prosperity for the upcoming year. A fun custom for children is that senior citizens or married couples give out red envelopes with money to younger people and singles to wish them another safe and peaceful year.

Traditional colours to be found and worn are red and gold representing good luck and wealth. Regarding plants, you may see Cherry Blossoms, Plum Blossoms and Orchids representing the renewal of life and new beginnings.

What can you say to your Mandarin or Cantonese speaking friends? Usually you can simply say “Xīnnián hǎo” (新年好), literally meaning 'New Year Goodness', or “Xīnnián kuàilè” (新年快乐), meaning ‘Happy Chinese New Year’. A famous Cantonese traditional greeting is kung hei fat choi, literally ‘happiness and prosperity’, which is gongxi facia in Mandarin.

In our experience, some of us visited the Lam Tsuen Wishing Tree, Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery or the Nan Lian Garden to ring in the New Year, while always being on a hunt for pretty lanterns. We are more than grateful for having the best batch mates, who organized a campus tour, city hunt and BBQ to welcome us to Hong Kong.

For a more detailed break down of the Chinese New Year, click this link.

If you want to know more about your Chinese zodiac follow this link.


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