Part 1

Chinese New Year, or Lunar New Year, in Hong Kong usually go by CNY 農曆新年 (literal translation is Lunar calendar New Year) or for short 新年 (New year), is one of the biggest holidays in Hong Kong. Despite the colonial history in Hong Kong for 150 years, HK mostly kept CNY traditions intact and very much alive.

Chinese New Year is calculated based on the Lunar calendar instead of the western, hence the reason that CNY lands on a different date on the western calendar every year.

Why is the Chinese New Year go to colour red?

Long time ago, there is a monster called 年獸Ninsau (Literally translated as Year monster, or monster of the year) that lives thousands of feet under the deep ocean. Once a year, 年獸 Ninsau gets to come on shore and devour people and villages. Ninsau is believed to be sort of a chimera of a lion and dragon, it stands on 4 feet, with 4 horns protruding its head, it has scales as hard as shields. People are really afraid of 年獸 Ninsau, and they discovered that 年獸Ninsau’s weaknesses are the colour red and loud noises. Since then, people start putting up red banners with lucky sayings at their door or in their houses to ward off Ninsau, and same goes for the firecrackers in red. Although 年獸Ninsau was not documented in earlier Chinese books, it only appeared in recent children’s books. The colour red has since become a symbol of luck.

Can I do firecrackers in Hong Kong?

Go to Macau! Firecrackers are very fun but very dangerous. Unfortunately, if you want to have that experience of cracking firecrackers, you cannot do it in HK. The closest place without entering the Mainland China would be in Macau 澳門. You can take a ferry and it takes about an hour. Macau澳門 is also known as the Las Vegas in Asia. In fact, according to “Business Matters- UKs leading business magazine”, its GGR (Gross gaming revenue) last year was 28.04 billion compared to Las Vegas’s 6.4 billion which was two times the revenue! Macau is pretty epic, and very beautiful as well, you can see many Portuguese colonial buildings. Another advantage of learning Cantonese is that in Macau people also speak Cantonese!

What Should You Do with Red Packets?

The tradition of red packets 利是 can be traced back to Tang Dynasty (618-907), where they originally used bags made of cloth, it wasn’t until the 1900s that the printing technology became more prominent that they started using paper instead of cloth. If you are married is that you might have to give out red packets 利是(The term is supposed to mean Good matters, or good things. This term has gone through an evolution and the writing of the word 事 matters or things, is now different than its original character). In different parts of Chinese speaking places red packets 利是 are called different names, such as 紅包 or 紅封包(literally means Red bags), you might also encounter variations of the word red packet when speaking with Cantonese people whose heritage might be from the Mainland China, for example, Guangzhou. The general rule of thumb for handing out red packets, of course, you need to put some money in there. How much you want to hand out depends on how close you are with the other person. Keep in mind that if it is a very large amount, you might be suspicious of bribery. If you are married and your partner is well and alive, you will need to hand out two red packets at the same time. Whereas if you had a divorce, or unfortunately your partner isn’t around anymore, you will only need to hand out one.

The Tradition of 找銀 (Grabbing Silver)

When you enter someone’s place during CNY you might notice there is a box of candies, snacks and nuts, this box is called 年盒(literally translated as year box or box of the year). Don’t be polite and not grab anything from the box. The act of grabbing food from the year box 年盒, is called 找銀 (grabbing silver). Of course, you are not really grabbing silver, they are just snacks, it is a symbolic act that people believe will bring you wealth in the coming year.


農曆新年 or 新年 - Chinese New Year

年獸 - Year monster

澳門- Macau

利是 - red packets (other variations: 紅包 or 紅封包)

找銀 - grabbing silver, the act of grabbing food from the year box

年盒 - Year box (box with snacks, candies and nuts)