Sunday, February 18, 2007

Chinese New Year: Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Lately, Hong Kong has been even more of a visual treat than usual. Chinese New Year has to be one of those most photogenic holidays around with many red banners and lanterns, tangerine trees, new clothes for everyone and of course, lion dances. We have wandered around admiring it all and understanding very little. To remedy this cultural deficiency, the kids and I actually signed up for an arts and craft class all about Chinese New Year.
The class was great for me, giving me the factual framework to understand the odd little bits and pieces Tori has told us from school. In a nutshell, Chinese New Year celebrates the lunar new year which is from February 18 through March 4 this year. This new year will be the year of the pig, specifically the golden pig or the fire pig! Throughout the holiday, red banners are hung up with greetings and wishes. All the red is to frighten away Nian, a legendary sea monster, who comes on New Year’s Eve. Of course, many special flowers and foods are out at this time. Dragon dances are to encourage rain and lion dances are to promote good health. Most interesting to the kids were all the things one is suppose to do or not to do throughout the holiday. For example, on New Year’s Day one is to wear red, wear new clothes, eat vegetarian food and give away lai see envelopes with lucky money. One is not suppose to cry (or whine- we added that), cut hair, use scissors, buy shoes, tell ghost stories, etc. Many times today when I was on the verge of doing a taboo action, Tori quickly covered for me, which we all hope helps!

At Tori’s school, the kindergarten students had different study groups all week to learn various aspects of the holiday. The twins and I volunteered at the dumpling making table. (Half-way through the week Adam asked me when he was going to get to see the eggs for the ducklings...) Tori’s class did its own lion dance, and that is indeed Tori under the lion’s head. Seeing all the kids in Chinese costumes and greeting their friends with the traditional saying; Kung Hei Fat Choi!, was enough to make me think we have indeed learned something this year.
We rushed home from the school party to our apartment building’s party on the same day. While the management has sort of shuffled through Halloween and Christmas parties, they shone on the New Year’s Party. They hired an expert lion dance crew and the same Chinese acrobat that performed at Tori’s school assembly. After an hour of lion dances, the acrobat performed some handstands and balancing tricks on a raised board. It might sound tame but it was far from it. The crowd was going wild and Adam and Tori were called up to volunteer. Tori did a nice cartwheel and Adam did an assisted handstand on the board. Since he was in a Chinese robe with shorts underneath, the robe fell down exposing his big belly. Being the good big sister, Tori quickly reached over and held his robe up over his stomach for the duration of the trick. Chinese New Year togetherness in action.


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