By Alexandra Ure (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong)
I cannot believe that February is drawing to a close, now the Chinese New Year festivities are over and mid-terms are around the corner, I need to get my head down (I’m writing this post first though, as it’s much more fun!).
Spending Chinese New Year in Hong Kong has been amazing; many exchange students took the week off as an opportunity to travel. I was intending to travel to Borneo, but had so many issues with booking flights that I couldn’t go. This has been somewhat a blessing in disguise as I’ve been able to experience the CNY festivities in Hong Kong, meet a bunch of new people and had some spare time to catch up on school work and apply for internships (I’m desperate to prolong my time here!).
The festivities for Chinese New Year last well over a week. In the lead up to New Year, locals head to flower markets which are teeming with beautiful flowers; namely orchids, blossom trees, lilies and this tree with odd looking oranges on it. Other merchandise is also sold here; in amongst the busy crowd, toy sheep are shoved in your face by sellers, “Missy Missy, sheep also comes in pink!”, and there are other beautiful traditional gifts. I bought a lovely hand-made wind chime from the loveliest elderly ladies.
The main Chinese New Year celebrations take place during the first three days of the lunar New Year. On the first day there was a fabulous parade in the evening with Chinese dragons, big floats, the biggest sheep you’ve ever seen and dancers from around the world. The second day consisted of a huge spectacular fireworks show, and on the third day there was a full day of horse racing at the famous Sha Tin racecourse.
All of which were so great – the atmosphere at each of these events was just unbeatable. Chinese New Year is the biggest and most celebrated festival in Hong Kong, and there are still other New Year traditions I wish to partake in before they’re over. I particularly want to visit a ‘Wishing Tree’ in the New Territories, which is an age-old tradition here in Hong Kong. Locals write their wishes down and tie them to traditional fruits then throw them onto the lucky tree in hope that they come true. The faith and religious nature of Asia is so lovely; if wishes come true I believe they return to where they made the wish to give thanks to the gods for granting it.
It is year of the Sheep/Goat/Ram this year – the Chinese don’t seem to be quite sure which animal it is. “Gong Hey Fat Choy!” is how you wish people a Happy Lunar New Year in Cantonese, but it translates as wishing you happiness and good fortune.