This Thursday does not only bring us some much needed rest but also brings the dawn of the Chinese New Year.
We celebrate Chinese new year in February because the Chinese calendar follows the path of the moon, hence it is called the lunar calendar. However, the ways the Gregorian new year (Jan 1) and Chinese new year are celebrated don't seem to differ much. They are loud, colorful, full of laughter, and there seems to be no shortage of food on these days. They bring families together and mark the beginning for those who wish to start afresh.
Last year, I visited my parents in Hong Kong (my first solo trip!) for the holiday. I love HK; it's my home away from home, so naturally, I grab every chance I get to go. But this time was special. This would be the first Chinese new year I spent outside the Philippines. Although some customs are similar, they're expressed a little differently.
Lai see vs ang pao
Singles are the lucky ones when it comes to this tradition. What Hongkys call lai see, here the Chinese refer to it as 'ang pao', literally meaning red packet. What's inside these red packets? Anything during the new year means to bring prosperity so what better way to do that than to give money? These are put inside the lai see packets and given to the young ones. Sometimes, these packets have the cutest designs like Hello Kitty!
This seems to be more of a Filipino favorite than Chinese! Kidding aside, I love the tikoy in Hong Kong. Instead of sugar to make it sweet, theirs has coconut in it! Yum! Tikoy is round to signify money. Similarly, some places have plants with little oranges on them. These are called kiat kiat. The name of the fruit means to grow, as in grow in prosperity, so the more the fruits on the plant, the better.
Who doesn't love pink lions? In the Philippines, we see dancing and cai qing (pronounce tsai ching) where lion dancers would perform and at the end, pluck a red envelope off a long pole. In Hong Kong, it was that and more. Hongkys fervently believe that lions bring luck more than we do here, much more so that for those who requested it, the lions would bless the rooms in the apartment where we lived. They also bring the promise of good business so for two weeks, lions were going around blessing store establishments.
All in all, it was a fantastic experience being with my parents and ringing in the new year with them. I left Hong Kong with new memories in tow and stories to share with the rest of my family.
If you're hungry for new adventures like me, I'd recommend the following apps: Agoda, Cebu Pacific, Trip Advisor and PAL.
May luck and prosperity be with you this Chinese new year! Gong Xi Fa Cai! Happy new year.