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Yale 62

Kung hei fat choi!

By Bill Stork

Bill Stork


This is our major annual festive occasion, and it is full of traditions!

It is a joyous time with its own festive noises. Many firecrackers will be heard where I live, and we will also be serenaded by a Lion Dance troupe

and the cacophony of its accompanying band of horns drums, gongs, and cymbals

Chinese New Year

Listen to it here

Red is an important color in Chinese culture, and at Lunar New Year you can see it everywhere. It symbolizes life and its many positive aspects is thus associated with the vitality of life, happiness, as well as with wealth, luck, and success.

There are important tasks for us to complete before the arrival of the Year of the Tiger. Our household gets a very thorough cleaning, and I actually even dusted each book on my shelves. Clean out the old and bring in the new. Anything broken needs to be discarded. Things with sharp points are to be removed or placed out of sight. It is important not to get any new shoes or books because, in Cantonese, the word ‘shoes’ sounds like sighing noises that we make, while books are a homonym for ‘lose’ – two words you really don’t want to mess around with when it comes to new beginnings. It is also a time to settle all debts and obligations. I have been busy responding to emails that have been sitting in my inbox. To let the old year out and the new year in, we open the windows. But not too much because we are having super chilly weather.

For Chinese, it is a time to be with family, and China’s transport system is annually overwhelmed by those there trying to return to ancestral homes. For families, it is a time for festive food!

Chinese New Year

We usually have a family banquet at the Regal Oriental Hotel, near where Jasmine’s mother lives. A recent surge in covid cases have caused the government to tighten restrictions, so no such feast for us this year. But Jasmine is an incredible cook and she is planning a special white radish cake (yum).

As with Christmas in the USA, stores and malls turn up the excitement with huge displays

Chinese New Year

accompanied by well-known Chinese music classics.

It is a time for the giving of lai see – red envelopes with uncirculated clean currency.

Chinese New Year

This is time for flowers and auspicious blooming cherry blossom trees. Many flower markets burst upon the scene. We always have lilies.

Chinese New Year

Our residence will have by its front door two mandarin orange trees, full of little golden oranges symbolizing the wealth that is to come (hopefully!) in the Year of the Tiger.

It is also time to check to see if the coming year will be an auspicious one. I was born in the Year of the Dragon, so the next year will be a positive one for me. There are many online resources for checking; here is one that is quite extensive, but look at several others just to be sure!

The more red that you wear, the more luck you will have! I burst out laughing when I saw the words “bright red underwear for Chinese New Year” in a promotional email:
Chinese New Year

Lunar New Year luck is plentiful if you know where to look for it. You can also “borrow” money from the Goddess of Mercy or Kwun Yum.

There are many Kwun Yum temples across the city ready to hand out heavenly credits to worshippers. Some Hongkongers queue outside these temples the night before or hours ahead of the opening of the Kwun Yum treasury, hoping to be the first to participate in the annual ritual.

Chinese New Year

The ritual, held on the 26th day of the first lunar month, involves buying a red piece of paper, which costs HK$50 to HK$60, that has a “value” inscribed on it. This ranges from a few million to billions of dollars of heavenly currency.

The red paper must be returned to the temple before the next Lunar New Year. The amount of the “loan” signifies the degree of luck for the recipient in the new year. The bigger the loan, the more luck they will receive. For a mere HK$60, who wouldn’t want to establish a line of credit with Kwun Yum?

Lunar New Year is also a time to reinforce connections with family and friends. So don’t forget to follow these Chinese traditions.

Chinese New Year

We greet everyone met by saying kung hei fat choi (wishing you prosperity) and they will most likely return the favor. We try to be generous and give out lai see to the young of our friends and to people who have served or helped us in the past year, such as the watchman or cleaning staff at our Palatial Coast our residence and the servers at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club where I am a member.

Luck and fortune go both ways and they work exponentially. You have to give to receive, so you reap what you sow.

Good luck with sharing luck and fortune with others.

Kung hei fat choi!

We welcome your comments below.

1 comment to Kung hei fat choi!

  • John Hatch

    Bill, Many thanks for sharing. Brings back memories and smiles of our New Year’s Day spent in Hanoi and the sharing of our guide and our driver for part of that day. John