HEALTH WARNING: this blog should be taken with a large dose of salt.
Kung Hei Fat Choi or Gong Xi Fai Choy – Happy Chinese / Lunar New Year. The picky amongst you, and there are some – you know who you are – will insist that is a wish that you be prosperous but for the sake of hoi polloi like me HNY is good enough.
Luckily, the local council decided to announce this blog post widely and I was delighted to see my site advertised in the town. Smart eyes will also note that whilst the rest of the world has Burger King, we have Butcher King.
This is one of the big three festivals we celebrate, the other two being Winter Solstice and Mid-Autumn Festival. No pink tickets. Three line whip. Thou shalt be on parade.
It is traditional at Chinese New Year that:
Mrs. H and I visit the Lunar New Year Fair in Victoria Park on HK Island
The shops put their prices up and the festive “must haves” cost an arm and a leg
Every workman worth his (or indeed her) salt disappears for at least two weeks irrespective of how urgent things are
All politicians are absolved of their crimes for the preceding twelve months and taken into the bosom of the community.
OK, I made the last one up. The fair in Victoria Park is quite interesting for the mix of the stalls. I am always mildly surprised that politics features quite large, be it the parties themselves having a stall to inflict their views on unsuspecting passers-by or students and minor pressure groups indulging in a bit of fun-poking. I doubt if this would be allowed in Pyongyang for example.
The two chaps getting the Billy Bunter treatment (yarroo!!) are, sadly for both us and them, Henry Tang (sporting the glasses) and C Y Leung, the two “leading” candidates to be the next CEO of HK Inc. Both are allegedly Beijing approved. This means that they are sufficiently malleable to kowtow to the emperor, who is not that far away thanks to modern air travel. Just look under ‘invertebrates’ in the dictionary. Freedom of kicking is alive in Hong Kong.
And if you want to see a few more of our glorious representatives, look no further.
Can you spot Albert Ho Chun-yan or Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee? Lucky you.
For most people however the new year is a time to spruce up the house, pay down the debts, put on the glad rags and decorate the house with peach blossom, chrysanths, tangerine trees, pussy willow, red berries and the rather odd yellow relative of the tomato family, Solanum mammosum.
There they are, the goldeny-yellow things behind the mini-bamboo pyramids. My wife calls then babies’ feet but there are surprisingly ruder epithets. I leave you to explore the alternatives or indeed invent your own. Every potential purchase is carefully weighed, haggled over and at times aborted if a sensible price cannot be agreed. It is important to buy the best quality and plants are selected that look like they will bloom closest to the first day of the new year and last the longest thereafter. We are more concerned that the dog doesn’t eat everything. I often wonder whether the red berries are poisonous.
Some of the flowers are the real thing
and some are not
If you think the picture above is not sharp, you are incredibly observant but not necessarily the sharpest knife in the drawer as I deliberately blurred it and hope to get 6.0 from the Russian judge for artistic impression.
Now all these images were shot in the busy metropolis whereas we Sai Kung grockles celebrate in a less commercial manner. And our decorations are more, well, abstract. I was impressed to see these festive chickens on display for example.
As a seaside town the boats also get decorated and in truth they look better than most of the tacky, stuff you may see in Victoria Park. Look at these simple but attractive decorations.
Lanterns hang everywhere.
And good luck wishes for a safe return hang along the seawall for those going to sea .
If it all gets too much you can just enjoy a walk along the pier as the sun goes down. That is exactly what I did.
In truth, the lunar new year is a lot of fun, an excuse to get families together, give out lai see or hong bao to the children, eat well, have a proper break and, if tradition survives, park illegally without getting a ticket. So go on, when the 23rd January arrives, get into the spirit of things. Put on your best red clothes, park in the boss’s space at work and then go home for three days, telling him it works in China and if (your country) wants to compete in the new world order, well, some Chinese customs just have to spread. I am sure he / she will understand.
Me, I’m off out for a while as Mrs. H is cooking turnip cake. Luckily it tastes a lot better than it smells in the cooking process. As usual it will be pronounced ‘delicious’ and we will all wonder how something as boring as a turnip can be turned into a feast fit for an emperor. Just don’t call the boss a turnip head. That is not a Chinese custom and should not be adopted.
Oh and in case you didn’t know it will be the Year of the Dragon and I, for my sins, am a Rooster. And cock-a-doddle-doo to you too.