5 Chinese New Year Customs You Probably Didn't Know!
Before I'd ever stepped foot in Asia the mention of Chinese New Year would bring up images of dancing lions, red packets full of cash and big family meals. And yes these do play big parts in the celebrations (although it took me over four years of living in China before I ever saw a dancing lion).
However, there is plenty more to Chinese New Year for the locals in Hong Kong as they prepare to enter the new year in the best possible way. There are a a huge number of customs, rules and traditions that if followed are thought to bring luck for the year ahead. Here are five that I've learned or experienced during my time in Hong Kong!
1. Flower Markets
While back home we have our Christmas markets in the run up to the festive period, in Hong Kong it is the flower markets which kick off the celebrations. Whole families attend the bustling markets looking to buy flowers and fruit trees to decorate their homes and bring good luck, wealth and prosperity for the coming year. Each plant comes with a different symbolic meaning and locals will scour through the hundreds of stalls in search of the perfect plants. But these markets have evolved past just flowers and you can find traditional food stalls and gifts too.
2. The Wishing Tree
Visiting the Lam Tsuen wishing tree in Tai Po is a popular custom for the people of Hong Kong. But what’s it all about? Again, it’s about bringing luck for the coming year. Essentially, you write your wishes for the year on a card and attach it to a mandarin. You then throw the mandarin at the wishing tree, with the hope it will land high and not fall down. It’s thought that if the mandarin stays in the tree that your wish will come true! There are also market stalls selling foods and gifts and cultural performances included singing and lion dances. It’s a little out of the way but an easy enough journey by the MTR and a great way to soak up some New Year culture!
3. Stocking up.....on dried sea food!
Hong Kong’s dried seafood market’s get particularly busy in the run up to Chinese New Year, with people stocking up not only for the upcoming feast, but for the year beyond. Fish “yú” (pronounced yoo) sounds very similar to the Chinese word for abundance, and is therefore thought to bring good luck for the year….seeing a theme here?
4. Spring Cleaning
Yes, spring cleaning is a thing in Hong Kong too! It’s believed to be very important to do a deep clean of your house before Chinese New Year. This is to clean away all the bad luck from the previous year. After that, there’s no cleaning allowed for the first 3 days of the celebrations, you wouldn’t want to sweep away that New Year good luck!
5. No Arguing Allowed!
That’s right, no arguing allowed…sounds wonderful. Makes me wonder why we never had this rule during Christmas when I was growing up. Arguing during Chinese New Year is forbidden! So no yelling, no fighting, crying is to be avoided, as are plenty of words with negative connotations. Doing this should make sure your journey into the New Year is smooth and you start it off as you mean to go on!
So, 恭喜發財 ( gōngxǐ fācái ), 新年快乐 ( xīn nián kuài lè ) or Happy New Year from us here at Teach Beyond Recruitment. Wishing you all the best for the coming year! If that includes starting a new adventure teaching in Hong Kong, then APPLY NOW!