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Chinese New Year in Hong Kong

aka Lunar New Year


A building decorated with two lion-dance lions in Causeway Bay during Chinese New Year.

Chinese New Year holiday notice at shopChinese New Year is the most important festival/holiday to the Chinese people as Christmas is to people in most western countries. It falls either in January or February in the western calendar, depending on the lunar calendar.

In Hong Kong there is a typical 3-day public holiday. Some businesses and factories stay closed even longer. (Left: a sign posted by a store saying they are closed till the seventh day of Chinese New Year)

It is the favorite time of year for children since not only do they get a week or two off from school, they also receive "red packets" containing cash from their parents and married adult relatives and friends. In addition it is a custom for families to wear new clothes - which are usually bought in the month preceding it. Hence for shops here in Hong Kong they get a Christmas rush, and an even bigger Chinese New Year rush.

Chinese New Year Colors

Chinese New Year decorations at a mallThe traditional colors for Chinese New Year are red and gold. You would see a lot of people wearing those, especially red. Bright and cheerful colors are more common than other times of the year as well. If you are visiting Chinese friends, especially those who are more traditional, be sure not to wear all white. It is the color for mourning! (Left: the doors of a shopping in Cyberport was decorated with fake red firecrackers and large gold pieces and ancient coins during Chinese New Year)

Traditions

Chinese New Year flower decoration at a home According to traditions, members of a family will go and pay respects to their "elders" on the first day of the Chinese New Year and wish them good health, good fortune, etc., etc. The "elders" include not only the older members but also anyone who is more senior in the family tree. Such kind of visitation also overflow into the subsequent days since they sometimes cannot quite make it or complete the rounds.

If you're living in Hong Kong, you would want to know that it's also a custom for people to give out red packets to those who have served them for an extended period of time during the year. The latter would typically include your domestic helper, the doorman, the janitor or person who usually takes out the trash in your building. It's also a time for some in the office to go around to wish others happy new year, with receiving a red packet in mind. So get some red packets ready before the first day of Chinese New Year - with money inside. As far as how much you should put in, it all depends on how well-to-do the recipient perceives you are!

"Kung hei fat choi" is the most typical saying here in Hong Kong during Chinese New Year. It means something like "wish you some fast wealth".

Decorating one's home with flowers is another tradition. Peach tree - with as many flowers blooming as possible, potted small mandarin orange tree, and cut flowers are often seen. (Left: cut flowers in a home during Chinese New Year)

Chinese New Year lion dance team Lion dance is another tradition often seen practiced during Chinese New Year. But then I don't know of any preset time or place you might find it. It's often done by martial arts schools going around shops to wish them a good year, and of course the shop owners would feel obliged to give them a red packet in return. Left: A lion dance team in rural Hong Kong during Chinese New Year.

Visiting Hong Kong during Chinese New Year

If you are visiting Hong Kong as a tourist, the first three days of Chinese New Year may not be a good time since so many shops and restaurants are closed. However, the trend is for businesses to open earlier and some chain stores even stay open throughout. This practice is more and more common since tourists from Mainland China tend to flood to Hong Kong during this time.

Nevertheless, if you don't plan on shopping a whole lot and would love to see some festivities, there usually is a new year parade (evening on Chinese New Year's day) and fireworks over the Victoria Harbor (second evening of Chinese New Year). But then because of these, there is a "gotcha": if your hotel is in the Tsim Sha Tsui district, you may not be able to get close to it in a vehicle because some streets are closed off to motorized vehicles and there are literally tens of thousands of people gathering to watch the show. But then if you have a harbor view room, you can have a fireworks party of your own right in your room.

Public transportation will run as usual during Chinese New Year. In fact on Chinese New Year's eve, the MTR (subway trains) typically runs non-stop overnight to accommodate the crowds flocking to the annual Chinese New Year flower market, the biggest one of such is held in Victoria Park in Causeway Bay.

Dates of Chinese New Year

2013.2
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