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Tiger Year! Get Set for CNY

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This year, Chinese Lunar New Year’s Day falls on February 1 and the fun starts in the last weeks of January. Here’s a look at getting the best out of Hong Kong’s favourite holiday

Also known as Spring Festival, Chinese New Year (CNY) dates back thousands of years and there’s a major three-day holiday here in Hong Kong. This year, February 1 is the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, ushering in the Year of the Tiger, and February 1 to 3 is a public holiday. The fun starts at the end of this month.

The lion dance is one of the most important CNY traditions, and you can see it performed all over Hong Kong in the lead-up to the holidays. Accompanied by beating drums, clashing cymbals and resounding gongs, it is performed to bring prosperity and good luck for the upcoming year – and chase away evil spirits.

Two performers become the body of the lion – the one in front is the head and front limbs, the one behind is the back and hind legs. The lion head is over-sized and dragon like.

There are two distinct styles of lion dance – southern and northern. The southern lion dance originated in Guangdong, and it is the style popular in Hong Kong. The lion dancers imitate a lion’s various movements with an emphasis on actions like scratching, shaking of the body, and licking of fur. Performances are vivid and entertaining, even comical.

The northern lion dance, on the other hand, demonstrates martial arts agility. Costumes are more robust and less decorative, to allow for freedom of movement. The performer in front holding the lion’s head is often lifted by the other to make the lion stand up. Movements are gymnastic, involving rolling, wrestling, leaping, jumping and climbing.

In the last week of January, you can pick up your CNY flowers and plants at one of the festive flower markets. The largest (and busiest) are located within Causeway Bay’s Victoria Park and Prince Edward’s Fa Hui Park, although there are smaller fairs dotted all over the city.

If you don’t fancy braving the crowds, the football stadium on Tung Chung Road usually hosts a small Chinese New Year flower market, while Prince Edward’s permanent stalls on Flower Market Road often yield better bargains than the seasonal flower fairs.

EDM 500x500 (10)

Another popular Spring Festival ritual, is an excursion to Lam Tsuen and its famous Wishing Tree. This Tai Po village is home to two ancient trees that were traditionally visited during festival times, when people would throw joss paper into the branches and make their wishes for the upcoming year. It was thought that the higher the branch your paper landed on, the more likely it was that your wish would materialise.
These days, the papers are attached to nearby racks in order to protect the trees, but the wishes remain just as strong!

wishing tree

ON JANUARY 30, the day before Chinese Lunar New Year’s Eve, you need to take the day off and get ready for the public holiday to come. It’s unlucky to do work of any kind over CNY, and that includes housework, so January 30 is the day to decorate your home for the holidays, and prepare meals in advance for Lunar New Year’s Eve and Lunar New Year’s Day. You also need to set to and clean house. This will clear out any bad vibes picked up over the past year and allow good luck to come in.

ON JANUARY 31, Chinese Lunar New Year’s Eve, the trick is not to do too much. What’s important is that you get together with family and friends for a celebratory (pre-prepared) meal to welcome in a new, prosperous year. Come midnight, open every door and window in your home so as to release any bad vibes associated with the outgoing Year of the Ox.

ON FEBRUARY 1, Chinese Lunar New Year’s Day, you already know not to work, cook or clean. Be mindful not to wash your hair, as this will wash away your luck, and don’t use knives or scissors, as this cuts your luck. Whatever you end up doing this CNY, Gong Hei Fat Choy!

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