Celebrating Chinese New Year with firecrackers, 'lai see' and family dinners

Kin Cheng
Kin Cheng
Head of Independent Model Validation

As a kid growing up in Hong Kong, for me Chinese New Year was the celebration to look forward to.  Waking up to the smell and sound of firecrackers being lit to ward off evil spirits, wearing brand new clothes smelling of moth balls because your parents had tucked them away for the whole year just for this special occasion. You eat the most amazing food and, most importantly, you get to collect ‘lai see’.  What is ‘lai see’?  It is a small red packet containing money. As a kid you can pretty much command red packets from just about any family friends and relatives you meet.  All one needs to do is to perform a certain gesture.  This involves standing upright, hands locked tight, arms raised and a nodding head.  With the body positioning ready you then belch out at the top of your voice a well-meaning greeting of good health and prosperity.

Just as with Christmas in the West, the lead up to Chinese New Year is a busy period with present buying, spring cleaning and visiting family.  Community parks are converted into flower markets that open only at night where people can marvel at the most spectacular and sometimes very peculiar looking plants, like the 'Solanum Mammosum’ pictured below, on display. 

Solanum Mammosum

And then New Year’s Eve is of course the big family dinner.

The joy and festivities are not confined to just the family setting but are also in the workplace.  Managers with a married status do their best to strategically plan their holidays at the beginning of the year so as to be away during the two-week period.  Those brave enough to go into work face younger colleagues shamelessly roaming the office from floor to floor accosting any manager they see for their ‘lai see’.  Probably not so much for the managers but it is actually a lot of fun to witness the raids!

Living in the UK, keeping up with the Chinese New Year traditions is not quite the same but it is brilliant to see there is greater awareness about this very special festive period. So, with the Chinese New Year upon us, I stand with my posture upright, my hands locked tight and with a nodding head, I wish you all much happiness and good health for the coming year!

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