This week has been filled with Chinese New Year’s (CNY) festivities. Many-a-cab driver has wished me wealth and prosperity as I have paid my fare; “Kung Hei Fat Choi” they shout out as i slam the door. Even my doorman seems to be less cranky than his usual uber cranky-self. The whole city seemed to be buzzing (more than usual) in the weeks leading up to CNY and it was nice.
We endeavored to watch the famous Hong Kong fireworks on Victoria Harbour on Tuesday night. As it was pouring with rain and with the added bonus of icy cold winds, we decided it would be best to pick out a nice bar with great views. On arrival at Woolloomooloo Steakhouse in Wan Chai, we were somewhat pissed off to see that they had closed the roof top bar due to the torrential down pour moments before. Idiots.
So there we stood, teeth chattering, in pitch black (the staff were nice enough to let us still head up to the platform anyway) with 100 other people clutching brown paper bags filled with ‘7/11’ bought beers, waiting. Boom – first batch of explosives went off across the waters edge, sounding the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ from the spectators. Coming from Sydney, where we are spoilt with the ever-amazing New Year ’s Eve fireworks, these my friends, were a complete anticlimax. The constant pollution from the city meant that the smoke from the first display didn’t clear in time for the next colourful eruption, with the smog and cold air choking the aftermath of the fireworks, similar to a gas chamber.
A collective look of “ready to go?” and we were off, headed in the direction of the nearest, warmest, coziest bar! We arrive at the Excelsior and walked down the timber stairwell in to the den that is the Dickens Bar. We continued to welcome in our second new year with red wine and port while warming our phalanges and giving our bodies a break from all the shivering.
On returning to work today, the festivities have continued with the passing out of many ‘Lai-see’s’. These little red packets not only come filled with fresh Hong Kong dollars (that locals queue for at the banks), but also a boatload of etiquette to adhere to. By mid-morning there was a procession of my colleagues baring their red packets and offering them to me with two hands, “Kung Hei Fat Choi, E”, meaning “May Prosperity Be With You”. I later found out that you only get these little red packets if you are a child or a single adult. How the hell do they know I’m not married?
For all the baskets of crazy that the Chinese produce on a daily basis, I have to admit the ideas surrounding the Chinese New Year are ones that I quite enjoy and connect with. The focus is around family, health and prosperity for the coming year. Being quite (secretly) superstitious, I enjoy the mythology and customs that come with celebrating CNY – Hong Kong style.
The idea that you give your home a thorough cleaning to ‘wash away the dirt’ and get rid of any bad luck from the year before is great (lucky I have C), and the city is awash with red and gold making the grey days appear a little brighter.
Of course, I think the push to purchase new shoes and clothing (symbolizing a fresh start) is a FABULOUS idea, and receiving a haircut during this time too? Why not! The expectation to pay off all debts and extend gestures of gratitude is a wonderful proposal and can’t hurt, can it?!
Living in Hong Kong provides a plethora of new customs and ways of life and Chinese New Year is just another one of them, albeit a big one. I must admit, it has been hard teaching an old dog new tricks over these past 2 years but my tolerance for the ‘new’ is getting higher and I look forward to the next cultural challenge that this wild city throws our way.
KUNG HEI FAT CHOI PEOPLE!