Kung Hei Fat Choi! It’s been a long weekend in this part of the planet as families gather for the biggest event of the year. Forget Christmas, forget New Years Eve… the big party is Chinese New Year.
Even here in this small village there’s been night after night of festivities. People have done major house cleaning, put up loads of decorations, and set off an insane amount of firecrackers at all hours of the night. The smell of charcoal and chicken wings wafts through the air as distant relatives come back to their hometowns to be with family, cook lots of food, and drink Tsing Tao by the BBQ. It’s really nice to see everyone in a really festive mood and very cheerful. Everyone smiles and says ‘kung hei fat choi’.
Little kids get dressed up in traditional Chinese wear (probably reluctantly) and look absolutely adorable. The Kid even got to wear a little China dress to her playgroup and now she is obsessed with it and wants to wear it every day.
Kids also get ‘lai see’, or red packets, which contain a small amount of money. Some people take lai see very seriously, and go to the bank to line up and get fresh, new notes to give out, instead of dirty old money. You only ever give lai see to people who are younger than you so for little kids it’s really fun.
But for me, the real excitement was getting to see the lion dance up close and personal. We were in the village next door, Luk Tei Tong, visiting a friend for tea, when we heard the drums start up. Quickly I grabbed The Kid and ran downstairs to find out where the festival was taking place. I’ve seen lion dances in other parts of Hong Kong, in the city, as they often hire a lion dance troupe to come to a new place of business on opening day to bring good fortune. But this was the first time I saw a lion dance in a small, rural village.
The kid watched in awe as the lion, blinking and swivelling its giant head, went right up into people’s living rooms and came back out again. People on the second floor came out on their balconies and lowered a red string with a bundle of lettuce with lai see tied to it, for the lion to try to jump up and ‘eat’ it. The lion went from house to house, all the while being followed by the drummers, who also set off firecrackers.
Of course, I didn’t have my damn camera with me, or even my damn smartphone. Damn, damn damn.
Thankfully someone sent me the video that they took, which I share with you now: