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The culture of Chinese New Year in Hong Kong

ART & CULTURE

Chinese New Year is the brightest, biggest and most important cultural celebration in the Chinese calendar, celebrated by an astonishing one in five people on the planet.

 

There is nowhere better to experience it in all its majesty than in Hong Kong, with 2017 marking the year of the rooster. The holiday, also called the Lunar New Year, lasts 15 days and is seen as the beginning of spring. In the same way as the western tradition, the new year is welcomed on New Year’s Eve – this year on January 27.

 

One vital aspect of New Year is a number of traditions which are adhered to. First off is clothing, with all family members needing to wear the right things, all of which must be brand new – a great excuse to go shopping! It’s also common to wear lucky red underwear under your outfit, be it a traditional Chinese cheongsam or qipao, or indeed more Western style clothing.

Next comes the tradition of distributing red enveloped, known as lai see, to family, friends, co-workers and people you come across in daily life. If you’re married, you give envelopes to unmarried adults and children – who particularly love receiving them. The red colour of the envelope represents good luck and is used as a symbol to ward off evil spirits. Make sure the amount you give ends in an even digit, in accordance with Chinese beliefs – while you should also avoid multiples of the number four as it sounds like the Chinese word for ‘death’.

 

What’s critical is time at the temple to worship your ancestors and welcome the New Year. To do so involves multiple offerings, usually of food including oranges and dates, while incense and stacks of paper money – not real! – are burnt.
 

 

The legend of a monster called Nian is then marked through setting off fireworks throughout the day, as the only things Nian was afraid of was noise and the colour red!

 

Finally there are taboos to be avoided on New Year’s Day, all of which have different meanings and superstitions. For example, breaking dishes, throwing out trash, crying, sweeping the floor and even washing your hair are all said to bring bad luck – so all should be avoided!

 

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