It may be Carnival Friday back in Trinidad & Tobago, but here in Hong Kong and other countries in the far east, it’s all about saying farewell to the dragon, and welcoming the year of the snake. Chinese New Year is the biggest and most important event of the year, and all of Hong Kong is aglow with red and gold decorations everywhere you look. In a few nights there will be massive fireworks displays and dragon dances and parades through the streets, with millions jamming the sidewalks. Even in my humble apartment block the festive lights have been strung up and auspicious messages hung from every door and elevator wishing people a prosperous new year. There’s a constant smell of incense in the air as people say their prayers for their ancestors and for themselves in hopes of better fortunes in the future. During CNY many people return to their home towns as everyone wants to get together with their families and enjoy a few well deserved days off.
While I am not too familiar with the subtle ins and outs of the festival — different activities are supposed to take place on different days in Chinese households, activities which I am of course not privy to — there is one tradition I can take part in, which is the distribution of lai see. These little red envelopes containing cash are given to people to say thank you for their hard work. For example, this year we have given lai see to the two grandpas who man the doors downstairs because despite the language barrier they are polite and friendly to us, and I appreciate their kindness. We are also giving lai see to the hard working couple who run a small Thai restaurant in the local wet market which we frequent, because they often give us little extras and always have service with a smile. It’s a nice way to show appreciation.
This year welcomes the Year of the Snake, one of the 12-year cycles in the Chinese zodiac, each of which has its own animal. The previous year was the Year of the Dragon, without a doubt the most popular year of the cycle because out of all the animals in the calendar, the dragon is the only creature which is mythical. To be born in the Year of the Dragon is considered to be especially auspicious and powerful.
I’m also happy to say that about 14 days ago we welcomed a little dragon of our own in to our home, a healthy little daughter named Lynn. She arrived on a surprisingly quiet night in Queen Mary hospital, considering the fact that many Chinese women consult fortune tellers to choose an auspicious day to deliver their babies, with many even inducing or having an elective C-section to ensure the child is born on that specific day. I was sure the hospital would be packed with women trying to have a Dragon Baby instead of a Snake Baby but perhaps the 26th was not an auspicious day! Anyway I am not sure how having a baby will affect my travelling but once she gets her first passport I don’t see any reason why she can’t hit the road with me and start getting some stamps of her own.
If you want to know more about where your birthday falls on the Chinese Zodiac, just enter your birth year on this website and find out which animal you are and whether the description actually matches your personality. I’m a Rooster and apparently this is me!
Roosters are very loyal individuals. They do not like dishonesty or mockery of any sort. They are blunt, up front and honest people and expect those around them to be the same. Roosters are happiest when they are surrounded by others, at a party or just a social gathering. They even enjoy the spotlight and will exhibit their charisma and wit in a minute. This star quality can be overbearing, for a Rooster expects you to listen to him while he speaks and can become agitated if you don’t. Roosters do have a tendency to brag about themselves and their achievements and demand an attentive audience when doing so.
I wonder, do I have a tendency to brag? Hmm, will have to watch for that one…
Anyway, for the Chinese readers out there, Kung Hei Fat Choi, and happy new year!