Featured writer: scarletscorchdroppers
Kung Hei Fat Choi!
Chinese New Year is a really exciting time around Hong Kong. All the shop fronts are decorated with blossoms and little kumquat tress, their pots wrapped in gold fabric and their leaves adorned with red packets and ribbons. The night before the lunar new year, many of them will shut for the holidays, hanging new year greetings on their doors as they lock up for 4 days. The buses and trains are crowded with people carrying branches in bud, and garlands of flowers to decorate their home. The shops are full of oranges, endless piles of boxed biscuits and chocolates to give as gifts. Each supermarket has a wrapping station set up behind the tills so the newly purchased confectionery can be wrapped in rich red paper ready to hand out to relatives and loved ones. Each has racks laden with red banners, paper snakes and lavish gold coloured decorations, all to be hung up around the home to help usher in good luck for the new year. Children are waiting with anticipation for the lai see from their relatives, decorated red packets filled with newly pressed money in auspicious amounts. The dim sum restaurants are attended by the St John’s ambulance as the retirement homes bring their residents out for their New Year meal.
The temples are filled with people laden with huge bunches of incense. Every possible surface is covered with piles of oranges. Families are all together, the small children are dressed up in their best red, silky traditional outfits. Families without children have put little Chinese jackets on their dogs instead! Last night our neighbours were up eating well into the night, and today their houses are buzzing with activity and laughter. Delicious smells are wafting through the windows. There’s a real celebratory atmosphere in the air.
The roads around Lam Tsuen, a usually sleepy Hong Kong backwater, fill with buses and taxis. People surge in their thousands to throw their wishes, attached to plastic oranges up into the bows of the wishing tree. If your orange stays your wishes will come true. In Kowloon roads are closed as the Night Parade sweeps through the city. Children dance in beautiful costumes, brass bands march and of course, the dragon dancers whirl and twist, lifting and lowering the huge dragon heads through the streets. Lion dancers, up on stilts, defy gravity to gasps from the crowds. Crowds gather early for the best seat for the fireworks. Setting up camp early in the day they unpack drinks, sandwiches and containers of rice, giving themselves the best view as the first of thousands of fireworks shoot up from barges in the harbour and explode in a flood of red sparks.