Hong Kong Prepares for the Lunar New Year

Yesterday as I walked out of my building, I noticed dozens of Kam gat shu (kumquat) trees set out on the sidewalk in front of the flower shop next door. Inside the shop were dozens more. These trees with their small green leaves and tiny inedible oranges represent wealth and perfection and are everywhere.

The Year of the Dog will be on us this Saturday. For the Chinese, it is Christmas, New Year’s, Easter and Thanksgiving all wrapped into one. It lasts for at least three days and most Chinese will spend the entire time visiting members of their extended family – the younger members visiting the older. Each visitor is expected to bring a gift, usually a flowering tree and in Hong Kong, the kumquat seems to be the tree of choice.

In China, people will travel for days to get to their provincial homes for these holidays. Most factories in Guangdong close down for one to two weeks. Here in Hong Kong most retail businesses will be closed on Saturday but by Monday, many, if not most, will be open for business. Offices will not re-open until Wednesday.

Many tourists are disappointed when they find that the museums and other tourist sites are closed for these days. Especially, since some travel agents in the U.S. and Europe tout the Lunar new Year as a good time to visit Hong Kong. If you are interested in visiting temples and wandering streets that are less crowded, it is a good time but plan to eat at your hotel for, at least, the first day of the celebration.

Kung Hei Fat Choi!