Chinese New Year is a really big event all over China. It’s the end of the lunar year and this time it became the year of the dog. A whole set of traditions (or call it “superstition”) comes with the CNY. The most important is to spend time with family and relatives. So I did that, or more correctly, I spent time with Shirley’s family during a weekend on Lantau Island.
Basically, it all started with a “yam cha”, a lunch of dim sum with around 10 people. Shirley’s sister Jenny brought her puppy dog Bi-Bi which made it much more interesting (otherwise it’s not very entertaining as everybody else in the family speaks cantonese). Dim sum is very traditional Hong Kong food, and it’s basically lots of small dishes, often dumplings or small buns, most of them steamed. I like some of it and dislikes lots of it, which is my general approach to chinese food. But it can be really good if I know what I order (and Shirley did as always a great job translating for me).
The weekend then continued with a family BBQ at Lantau Island, a night at a rented apartment and a visit to the traditional fishing village Tai O the following day. The whole event was always very chaotic and noisy, but in a charming way, and all in all I felt very welcome and had fun, although the communication between me and the rest of the family was almost non-existent.
During the Chinese New Year I have experienced a couple of charming/peculiar chinese customs:
- All married couples have to give red pockets with money inside to all that are not married, so called lai see. These usually contain between 20 and 100 HKD each, but when you combine a large family the total amount increases fast. I received around 400 HKD in lai see’s, which felt very strange for me – it’s not my family and I’m not allowed to give anything back to them.
- A lot of chinese don’t trust the dishwashers at restaurants, so when they receive the porcelain they clean it again using the tea and hot water that is compulsory at chinese restaurants. I found this very… peculiar.
- Many chinese try to save their hair growing from moles in the face (!) because it brings good luck. The longer hair from the mole, the better… it is also considered good to have a little finger that is longer than the ring finger, which of course is hard to achieve – so what some do is to grow their nails on the little finger to be longer than the ring finger…