FOOD FOR THOUGHT BLOG | A New Year, a New Me BY PAT TSANG

Feb 26, 2024

FOOD FOR THOUGHT BLOG | A New Year, a New Me BY PAT TSANG

When is New Year’s day, and what is it like in your country?  For Hongkongers, we celebrate on the first day of January as well as the day of the first new moon of the calendar, which is called Lunar New Year.  The Lunar New Year often falls between the end of January and the beginning of February.  So, it means we can have two holidays for the new year.  I was thinking I was luckier than those people who lived somewhere with only one new year holiday.

Having said that, I couldn’t really enjoy the Lunar New Year’s break entirely when I was a kid as my mother would keep me busy by having me help her prepare things for the festival.  Actually, they are all about traditions.  It means that we need to follow  the rules on how, when and what things to be done.  For example,  we need to do a deep clean two days before New Year’s Eve. As it literally meant a deep clean, every corner of our home must be covered.  If there were any disused things, like toys or clothes, they needed to be thrown away as well.  It is a day for clearance.   Some people say the cleaning is a gesture of letting go of bad luck so as to leave rooms for good luck. I do not buy this idea at all.  My argument is what if someone who already has good luck!!! 

Then, on New Year’s Eve, we need to put up some “Fai Chun” (printed with words of wishes or blessings on red paper) on the walls and doorways.  Though there were many choices of expression that we could choose from, my mother always picked the ones with wishes of good health and good examination results.   I supposed that they truly reflected my mother’s expectations of us.

Besides this, we also need to prepare red packets (money put inside red envelopes), too.  They are gifts to children, which are given by seniors and married couples, as a gesture of  blessings. 

While the children were busy helping, my mother would be working hard in the kitchen to prepare us a big dinner for New Year’s Eve.  On top of it,  she would also make one or two pieces of  Coconut Milk Cake or Turnip Cake as well.

Let alone the above tasks which spoiled my holidays, the most annoying one to me has yet to be mentioned. During the 3-4 day holiday, people would pay visits to their senior family members like grandparents, uncles, aunties, and friends.  I was often asked to go with my parents.  Even though I would be rewarded by red packets or candies,  they could never compensate for the sheer boredom.  After I became a grown-up, I started to escape from these traditions by traveling overseas only just to give myself  a quiet holiday.

All of these things I listed above are only part of the traditions, and they could vary from family to family.  Although I was not a fan of them, or even broke with tradition many times, my perspective towards them has changed after I left my home city.  The Fai Chun, the red packets, the festive food, and the visits;  all of them now filled me with nostalgia but not criticisms.

Fireworks Festival over Hong Kong city at night, view from The Peak

On the Lunar New Year Day this year, I went to a party to celebrate it.  We were sharing dishes of festive food, and writing “Fai Chun”…etc. At the party,  I bumped into an acquaintance who came from HK a year ago.  He told me that he was feeling emotional when he heard the new year greetings made by his factory’s management on Lunar New Year’s Eve. He did not understand why he had such feelings as he never cared about Lunar New Year.   I prompted him by asking if he was missing home, but he denied it.  At the moment that I heard my own question,  my eyes became misted over.   I guessed I probably was the one who missed home.    The celebration helped recall lots of my fond memories with my friends and family.  At the end of the party, I gave hugs to some of my acquaintances as if they were my friends and family.

Now I would prefer going to a party to celebrate the new year rather than having a quiet one on my own; I would also not mind to follow some traditions.  They have no longer bothered me.

Lunar New Year to me will never be the same again.

Heart & Parcel