恭喜发财! Chinese New Year in Hong Kong!

恭喜发财! Chinese New Year in Hong Kong!

Chinese New Year is celebrated differently all over the world. Read more to hear how the people of Hong Kong celebrate this remarkable once-a-year family-filled holiday! 

 Chinese New Year Dance Fireworks in Hong Kong Good Luck Signs Hong Bao or Red Envelopes

What traditions does the community have?

Chinese New Year is the biggest and most important holiday in Hong Kong. Chinese New Year is the time for Hong Kong families to come together and spend precious time with each other. Not only is the Chinese New Year important in Hong Kong, it is also important in China, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, and all other countries with a significant Chinese population.

What tradition did I learn about?

I learned about the Chinese New Year, Hong Kong style. The Chinese New Year is a traditional Chinese holiday, with traditions dating back many centuries ago. The celebration of Chinese New Year is different than the New Year we celebrate in the United States because each tradition follows a different calendar. Did you know that there are many calendars or ways to measure the passing of time? The most commonly used calendar in the United States is a Gregorian calendar. It is based on the movements of the sun. The Chinese calendar is based on the movements of both the sun and the moon.

The night before the actual holiday, Chinese families will gather for the annual reunion dinner. During the dinner, several generations of one family may be present. The dinner may even include members of the extended family. It is also traditional for families to clean the house together that night, in order to sweep away any bad luck and to make way for incoming good luck. Windows and doors will be decorated with red colored-paper that says things like “good fortune”, “happiness” and “longevity”.

Other activities include lighting firecrackers and giving money in red paper envelopes. Giving money in red paper envelopes is called hong bao . In my experience, this practice was extremely common even among friends. Some of my Hong Kong friends and their families would give me hong bao envelopes when I visited them for dinner or even just passing by.

Chinese New Year is considered a public holiday in Hong Kong, and is one of the few public holidays on the calendar. During the Chinese New Year, most business and facilities close down, and most people are preoccupied with family-related activities. The family aspect of this holiday is much stronger than that in the U.S., where the New Year is often celebrated by partying with friends.  Many people living far away from their family will often travel back to their family in order to celebrate the holiday together. This creates a huge challenge for travel companies, as millions of people are traveling at the same time.

In Hong Kong, people say “gong hei fat choi” (恭喜发财), which loosely translates to “congratulations and be prosperous”. Although this does not really mean “Happy New Year”, it is the greeting most often used in Hong Kong. This greeting is in Cantonese Chinese, so people living outside of Hong Kong will probably not understand you if you tell them that! In mainland China, most people say “xin (pronounced shin) nian kuai le” (新年快乐), which actually means “Happy New Year”.

Why does the community have this tradition?

The community has this tradition because it has been passed down through so many generations. The Chinese New Year is such a vital part of Chinese culture that all businesses and governments must plan their schedules around it. It is not only a holiday that exists due to tradition, but it also exists because it is one of the few times in a year where families can get together and spend time with each other. In Chinese culture, good family relations are an indicator of how successful and happy someone’s life is. A Chinese individual therefore has a more difficult time maintaining independence from his or her family, even if he or she wants to.
Is this tradition connected to its environment? How?

The Chinese New Year is celebrated wherever there are Chinese people. Even in the United States, many Chinese families will gather for dinner and spend time with each other during Chinese New Year. The Chinese New Year itself is based on the second new moon after the day of the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year. Since the calendar is based on both the sun and the moon, it makes sense that the New Year is the second moon after the winter solstice. This is because after the winter solstice, days start getting longer again.

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