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CNY Flower Market
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A guide to Chinese New Year traditions in Hong Kong

All your dos and don’ts for CNY

Written by
Time Out Hong Kong
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There are many ways to celebrate Chinese New Year, but no matter how you decide to enjoy the holiday, there are some pretty important basic traditions and etiquette to get the hang of first. So, if you want to maximise your luck for Year of the Tiger, follow our easy-to-digest guide below!

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Hong Kong’s Chinese New Year traditions

No broken things
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No broken things

Don’t start the Year of the Tiger on the wrong paw by keeping old, broken, or old-and-broken items in your home or office. Chipped crockery, damaged shoes and even worn-out, musty old socks should be replaced (or placed very much out of sight) with new things, so these limited edition CNY items might help! 

No sharp points
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No sharp points

You could say that sharp items should be avoided at most times of the year. But they definitely need to be avoided during the Chinese New Year holiday period. In fact, they should be placed out of sight for they are seen as a sign of bad luck. 

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Lucky red
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Lucky red

In Chinese culture, red is a lucky colour and represents happiness, good luck, success, and good fortune, especially if you have a lucky red packet coming your way. The Nian, a mythical beast who apparently terrorised villages by eating their livestock, crops and even children every year on Lunar Year’s Eve, was said to have been afraid of this colour. Since then, many red adornments, such as lanterns, fai chun, and firecrackers, have been adopted to ward off the creature at CNY.

Clean up your act
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Clean up your act

The Lunar New Year is the perfect occasion to clear out the old and bring in the new – but make sure you time it correctly. Do it earlier, rather than later, because according to superstition it has to be done before Chinese New Years. Otherwise, you’ll sweep away all your good luck!

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No new shoes or books
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No new shoes or books

In Cantonese, the word 'shoes' sounds like sighing noises that we make, while the word 'book' is a homonym for ‘lose’ – two words you really don’t want to mess around with when it comes to the new year.

Settle your debts
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Settle your debts

It’s time to clear the red out of the ledger. Superstition cites that if you begin the new year in debt, you will probably end the year in debt. So, make sure you pay off and settle any outstanding accounts or money owed to family, friends, or business associates before the CNY break to ensure you get all the fortune, and well, get rich this year. Sounds easy enough, right?

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Mandarin and kumquats
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Mandarin and kumquats

These tasty, round citrus fruits symbolise prosperity and fortune in Chinese tradition – so CNY is the most auspicious time of the year to stock up. Their vibrance is closely tied to the colour red, according to tradition. And placing them around the house serves to bring in the wealth. They’re also healthy and taste good, so it's a win-win if you ask us. Also, don’t share pears at CNY because it sounds like ‘separation’ in Chinese. Sad times.

Open your windows
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Open your windows

Another one to do prior to the holiday is to open your windows. It sounds simple enough, but it is a custom that allows you to air out the house and by doing so, let the old year out and welcome the new one in. Not only will this provide a veritable path of fortune into your house, but it’ll also be great to get some fresh air into your lungs. Well, as fresh as we can actually get in the fragrant harbour.

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Clean thyself
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Clean thyself

Here's one for anyone who doesn’t value hygiene as much as the rest of us do: an excuse to be a little rough around the edges. Yes, that's right, one does not simply wash their hair or take a shower on the day of Chinese New Year as cleaning yourself on the day is seen as washing away good fortune. Though a thorough scrub of the hair and body is highly encouraged prior in order to rinse off any bad luck. 

Guide to Chinese New Year lai see

For friends and family
The general rule of thumb is the more familiar you are to the giftee, the greater the amount you should put in the red packet. Usually, friends and family start from $100 upwards. 

For the friendly faces
Remember to show your appreciation to the everyday heroes in your life: doorman, security guard, cleaning staff and the like. A $20 lai see is usually the way to go.

For the regulars
Got a favourite hairdresser or manicurist? A go-to waiter at your regular restaurant or a barista that does your coffee every morning? A $50 packet should do the trick.

For the lackeys
If you’re the boss, gift your dog-tired staff (and even the ones you hate) lai see ranging from $100 to $1,000 depending on the size of the team and how generous you’re feeling. Do it, you frugal bastard.

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