One thing I was really looking forward to this semester was being in Hong Kong for Chinese New Year, which also happened to coincide with my 21st birthday. Being in a country whilst they celebrate a holiday offers a unique chance to experience the culture. Plus we also got an extra week off uni!
Chinese New Year is a fifteen day celebration, which began this year on the 31st of January. In Hong Kong this is celebrated with a parade through the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui. To be honest we were a little disappointed with the parade, with it kind of lacking in energy considering the number of people gathered to watch it. It had the traditional dragon dancers and local dance groups but the majority of the parade consisted of corporate floats run by sponsors such as Cathay pacific.
After the parade we went for drinks in Le Jardine, in LKF, where, at midnight, I turned twenty one. We drank and few cocktails and Cat bestowed the birthday crown on me, which I was to wear for the rest of the following day.
On the 1st, I celebrated my birthday properly. Me and the girls went out to brunch at Brick Lane restaurant and ate much missed English food (a full english breakfast for me!). Gail snuck a cake in past me and the waiters brought it out for our dessert, which was lovely. The rest of the afternoon consisted of enjoying the weather in Hong Kong park, drinking happy hour cocktails and then meeting up with some other friends to watch the new year fireworks that evening.
The fireworks display for me was the highlight of the Chinese New Year celebrations in Hong Kong. They went on for about 20mins and 6 tonnes of fireworks were supposedly set off. It being my birthday, I brought some bubbly and we arrived at Tamar park, by the water in Admiralty, for a picnic dinner (consisting mostly of ferrero rochers I’d been given) about an hour before the display was due to start. We had a spectacular view, and what a way to celebrate your 21st birthday! Afterwards we were back in LKF for another night out. The next day I had completely lost my voice, much to the amusement of all those around me.
A couple of things I have learnt about Chinese New Year:
This year is the year of the horse (or the year of the whores if you happened to see the BBC’s subtitling error), which is supposed to be an extra good year.
You are supposed to clean your apartment the day before the new year to represent a fresh start.
It is bad luck however to clean on the new years day as this will clear away the good luck. Apparently the same goes for not washing your hair… oops.
Children are given red envelopes with money in. (can I still get one?)
Ferrero Rochers are a popular gift as they are gold (representing wealth) and are on sale everywhere, and I was inundated with them on my birthday.
Chinese New Year is when the largest human migration on earth occurs, as all Chinese migrant workers return to be with their families. Basically it’s probably best to avoid trying to travel in China during this period.
The locals will laugh at you but will also certainly appreciate any attempts you make at wishing them prosperity for the new year. In cantonese it’s kung hei fat choy!