Chinese New Year

16 Jan 2020 | Theodore

What is Chinese New Year? Chinese New Year or as it has become known in other countries Lunar New Year, is the time of year in which people go back home to celebrate the new year with lanterns of gold and red, new clothes, red packets (lai see in Cantonese or hong bao in Mandarin or angpau in Malay), and food. Usually there is a lion dance and a dragon dance as well as other performances to bring in good luck and fortune to all in the new year.


A long time ago in a small village in China a demon terrorized the villagers every year on New Year’s Eve. The people were terrified to sleep as the Nian monster would come out and eat the villagers and their livestock. No matter what, no one could defeat this demon. All the villagers would escape to the mountains to evade the monster. One day, a visiting man stopped by on New Year’s Eve to spend the night. As the villagers were beginning to head up to the mountains and old woman gave him food and informed him of the great monster Nian. The man unperturbed by the events decided to stay in the village. The great monster came into the village expecting it to be dark, ready for taking. However, the old man had lit candles and put red paper over the doors. Curious, the Nian monster went to the front door only to be greeted by the old man laughing whilst wearing red clothes with bamboo cracking and popping in the background. The monster, frightened by these turns of events, ran back to the ocean. When the villagers came back down, they were surprised to find everything intact and the old man still living. Thus, the traditions of Chinese New Year were born.

What’s the big deal?

For many Chinese New Year is the one time where they go home and see family, akin to the western Christmas and Thanksgiving seasons all rolled into one.

Fun fact

Chinese New Year is the largest annual human migration event in the world, and the entire season of travel is called Chunyun in Mandarin and Balik Kampung in Malay. With rising populations, this record continues to beat itself every year.

Lai See/hong bao/angpau general rules

  1. Typically given married seniors to juniors (particularly to children and single people) or to family members
  2. Don’t open a red packet in front of the person who gave it to you (it’s considered rude)
  3. Receive it with both hands
  4. Thank the giver with an auspicious phrase such as:
  • kung hei fat choi (may you prosper)
  • Qing chuen seung jue (may your youth be everlasting) *to women only
  • Sang yee hing lung (may your business prosper)* a good one for your boss
  • Sun tai geen hong (may you have good health)* a good generic one

So, this year, why not go and partake in a few of the celebrations that occur here in Hong Kong. Go to Wong Tai Sin and get your fortune read, watch the lion dance in Tsim Sha Tsui, and eat some dumplings!

恭喜發財,身體健康!(kung hei fat choi, sun tai geen hong)