Friday, February 4, 2011

The Year of the Rabbit

Chinese New Years is the biggest and most important holiday of the year. In some ways it is much the same as ours.  This is the time to get together with family and bring in the New Year.  It lasts 15 days but of course some only get a few days off, and there are all kinds of celebrations going on for the two weeks.  It is still called the Spring Festival on the mainland.  The end of the month is called the "Bitter Moon"  because it is the coldest part of the year in Hong Kong.  It is a very busy time of year as family members clean house, (to get rid of the bad spirits from last year) get haircuts, buy new clothes and cook, all of which are prohibited during the holiday.  Debts and feuds are settled, and employees get a one-month New Year's bonus.  There is a legend that at one time there was a beast who came to eat the villagers and they were told that red and noise would scare him away so that is why red and fire crackers are so important in their culture.  It's also a time to go to the temples to pray and light incense and remember your ancestors.  At the small temples that are all around l've noticed there are more people visiting than before.
You see a lot of decorations like this.  They are firecrackers with all sorts of symbols on them and they come in small sizes like this one to huge ones. On New Years Eve families get together for a feast, wear new clothes (not black and white, but something with red) and stay up all night visiting and playing games. Some of the foods that are important are fish, dumplings, spring rolls and Nian Gao, which sounds like getting higher year by year, which means they will prosper.  There is a lot of punning with the words for food.  The sounds of the words can mean two things, like chicken (gai) can also mean luck, so you would want to eat that for luck. In the morning the children will receive presents and the red packets with money in them. I love the bright red color everything is.
These little red packets are called lgi-si.   It is a small red and gold envelope in which new bills (usually $10 or $20) are enclosed and given as gifts by married people to children and singles, and also to people like the security guards or anyone else you want to say thank you to for a job well done.  Families will give a lot more to their children and loved ones.  The only symbol l know is the one on the right and l think it's wishing you "abundant gold and harmony" On the second night of the New Year there is a 20 min. fireworks display over Victoria Harbor.  (Individuals are not allowed to use fireworks here)  You get a good view of the display from Kylie's balcony, which is much easier than trying to find a spot amongst millions of people doing the same thing!!

Hunter in front of a colorful dragon at Renaissance School.

Because it is also known as the Spring Festival, flower decorations are all over.  These cherry blossoms were so fresh and pretty, and they had them the whole length of the mall.  Also orange trees are everywhere now and Kumquats are also popular.  Candied Kumquats are sold in the stores.  Chinese New Years ends with the Spring Lantern Festival on the 15th day.
  Live tree in Sky Tower lobby with red packets attached.

 Cherry blossoms, and red packet trees in the mall at Festival Walk.  Notice the rabbits all over the banners.  It's very pretty.

Hunter getting his Chinese New Years packet with money and chocolate money.

 Keegan trying to eat his chocolate with the wrapping still on.

My Narcissus plant bloomed right on time! 

Rachel and her red packet.  I think they all liked the chocolate the best, but give them a few years and it will be the other way around! 

We stayed over at Ryan and Jill's last night so Blaine and Ryan could go mountain biking in the morning (more of that next week).  Keegan and l playing smash up the cars!  He was enjoying the smashing way to much!!

 Funny how kids love to play in boxes!!

Well we've experienced our first Chinese New Years, and it has been an education in another cultures  way of celebrating.  In some ways it is the same the world over, family getting together, and favorite foods.  Today on our way home from Ryan's the line ups for buses was unreal, and our bus which began out in Tuen Mun, was filled to capacity by the second stop, with people dressed up and going to visit family for  New Years Day.  The little kids were so cute  with many of them in their traditional Chinese outfits.  When we went by one of the temples which has a huge plaza around it, it was packed with people lined up to get in.Tomorrow at the harbor is the big fireworks display of the year. It is funny to see all the little shops along the streets closed down.  I don't know if the malls close or not.  I think most restaurant's  are open and some of the grocery stores stay open. Tomorrow we are all getting together at Kylie and Jocelyn's for supper, play some games and watch the fireworks from their balcony.  It's good to be with our family and make new memories in a land of such ancient traditions.

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