Thursday, February 4, 2016

Monkey New Year

Sunday is New Year's Eve. It's not a public holiday, but that's when people really start to celebrate. The actual holidays are Monday to Wednesday. After that, everybody has to go back to work. Some people get the Lantern Festival off, but it's not a public holiday. Technically, the New Year lasts 15 days, but in Hong Kong, only the first 3 officially count.

This is my sixth Lunar New Year in Hong Kong. The first one was right after I got here and I didn't know what was going on. I was in a brand new city in a completely alien country and everyone was partying their hats off. I almost thought that was typical Hong Kong, but then it all quickly died down and everyone went back to their routine.

I'm by no means an expert on Chinese culture or their festivals, but I think I understand this one better than I used to. I always know when it's coming up, which is unusual for Chinese holidays. Sometimes people tell me it was a holiday yesterday and I only missed it because it was in a different month the year before. The Lunar New Year can be any time between January and March, but enough people talk about it beforehand that everyone gets plenty of warning.

New Year's Eve is a big family dinner. I don't have any family here, obviously, but I look forward to some of the special food we only see during the New Year. There are a lot of good 油角 places near my apartment and all kinds of candy I never see the rest of the year.

New Year's Day is for going out to watch fireworks, lion dances and red envelopes. It can get low key in smaller Chinese towns, but Hong Kong is a big city that knows how to put on a show. There are thousands of places to go to watch people perform. Almost everyone goes to Avenue of the Stars for the fireworks. That makes it a little crowded. It's like Times Square on New Year's Eve.

Day 2 is when daughters are supposed to go back to their parents' house and a lot of people visit their local temple. It's a great time to go to temples if you want to see how boisterous they can be. It's not such a great time to go to temples if you want to meditate in peace and quiet.

Day 3 is for burning money and letting a fortune teller decide what you'll do for the year. This day means nothing to me. I'm not a fan of burning money and I don't like fortune tellers at all.

The holiday continues until the Lantern Festival, but people observe less and less as the days go on. Everyone goes nuts on New Year's Day, and even New Year's Eve, but it's hard to tell anything is even happening by day 14.

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