Sandra Scott Travels: Happy Chinese New Year

Last week I asked, “Where can you celebrate Chinese New Year?”

In Hong Kong.

Lion Dance
Lion Dance

We, of the Western world, tend to think that our calendar, the Gregorian calendar, is the only calendar in use.

But that is not the case.

It is estimated that there are about forty calendars in use today most of which are used to determine religious dates.

In China, according to tradition, it is 4716.

The Chinese calendar is one of the oldest calendars in modern society.

Although the Chinese calendar originated in China, these days, the Gregorian calendar is used for civil purposes.


However, the Chinese calendar is still used to determine festival dates, such as Chinese New Year.

This year Chinese Lunar New Year in on February 5, 2019, so there is still plenty of time to book a flight to China, Hong Kong, and/or Taiwan.

According to the Chinese 12-year zodiac cycle it will be the year of the pig – pigs are diligent, compassionate, and generous so it should bode well for the year.

Ringing in the Chinese New Year (called Tet in Vietnam) is a great experience.

It is like Christmas, Thanksgiving and New Year’s all rolled into one.

Schools and businesses are closed for a week.

Flower Market
Flower Market

We try to avoid traveling in Asia around the time of Chinese New Year because, traditionally, everyone returns home for the week so booking flights and the like are difficult.

“Kung hei fat choy” is the traditional New Year greeting; it means, “Wishing you success and prosperity.”

Hong Kong has one of the most elaborate Chinese New Year Celebrations.

Most of the modern skyscrapers, some of which are 30 stories high that line the harbor have huge neon holiday decorations on the harbor side.

Like all holidays Chinese New Year is set in tradition.

wishing tree
wishing tree

Houses are cleaned to a fare-thee-well and decorated with flowers.

Families visit the flower market to get a kumquat or tangerine tree, which would be like a Christmas tree in the Western world.

Kumquats and tangerines are considered symbols of good luck because they are golden, the color that signifies money.

The word for tangerine in Chinese has the same sound as the Chinese word for “luck.”

The most common flower for Chinese New Year is the narcissus.

If it blossoms on New Year’s Day, it is an indication of good fortune.

Every facet of Chinese New Year has a special meaning.

Like Western holidays it is traditional for the whole family to gather for a huge meal with fish being the most important food because the Chinese word for fish sounds like the word for abundance.

During Chinese New Year it is traditional to give children red envelopes with money inside.

These are called lai see envelopes which means “lucky.”

To usher in the year there is usually a Lion Dance to bring good luck and happiness in the New Year.

The Lion (two people in a lion costume) danced around to the beat of large drums and clanging of cymbals to drive away evil spirits.

One of the most amazing aspects of the performance occurred when the lion stands on his back legs and jump up to reach pieces of lettuce are hanging from something high.

The word lettuce sounds like money in Chinese.

Prosperity Toss
Prosperity Toss

The lion dance has been popular for more than 1,000 years and most neighborhoods have similar version.

Hong Kong hosts a magnificent parade, which can be watched in a traditional manner from the street, but several years ago we were lucky enough to get tickets for the finale.

For more than an hour the marching and performing units from a variety of countries paraded through the arena pausing to put on a short performance.

The next night there is amazing fireworks on the waterfront.

Travel Trivia Tease™: Which of the American Virgin Islands is nicknamed “Rock City?”

Look for the answer next week.

Sandra and her husband, John, have been exploring the world for decades, always on the lookout for something new and unique to experience. We have sailed down the Nile for a week on a felucca, stayed with the Pesch Indians in La Mosquitia, visited schools in a variety of countries, and — to add balance to our life — stayed at some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Let the fun continue!