Springing into Chinese New Year
Tomorrow marks the beginning of Chinese New Year, without a doubt the biggest festival of the Hong Kong calendar. Families gather together for days of feasting, exchanging well-wishes and red packets of lucky money – lai see.
During the lead-up to the New Year celebrations, I headed down to Causeway Bay’s Victoria Park, where six football pitches are given over for the annual Lunar New Year Fair. Bookended by hot food stalls peddling meat skewers, soup noodles, dumplings and pork chop buns, half of the venue is dedicated to a sprawling flower market.
Those seeking success in their love lives might purchase bundles of peach blossoms, while orchids – representing fertility – are given as gifts to newlyweds and expectant mothers. Rows of tangerine bushes bear witness to the Cantonese love of puns: the word for “tangerine” is also a homonym for “lucky”. Other stalls are decorated with a curious South American fruit, known as “five generations together in one house”. Carefully stacked into New Year trees, these voluptuous, inedible fruit are known in English by a rather more straightforward name.
There was a time when I went for six consecutive years without celebrating Chinese New Year. I missed the family dinners, the bold red door couplets, and the smell of spent gunpowder as it lingered in the air over the harbour. And who could forget the sweet scent of narcissus, the flower of water fairies? Two pots of the white and yellow blossoms now grace the living room, following a family tradition that has existed for as long as I can remember.