I for one cannot wait to see the back of the Year of the Monkey and start the Year of the Rooster. My western New Year did not get off to an auspicious start having slipped over and badly injured my arm. What I wasn’t expecting though was the reaction of my helper. Rather than being sympathetic at the sight of my arm sling she visibily recoiled. More than that, she literally didn’t want to cross the threshold into the apartment. Turns out she felt it was bad luck to be around me/in my condo in the run up to Chinese New Year.
I should have known of course as it reminded me of the reaction of my Pilates teacher when I told her about a great new restaurant I’d been to. The following week she coolly told me she’d been to check it out. “You know, it’s round the corner from a hospital right?” she continued. She felt that that was bad luck and therefore would never step foot in said restaurant no matter how good it was.
But back to Lunar New Year. As much as I’m looking forward to a new start (and the great thing about being an expat is that you get two bites at this!), once again the issue of Lai See money rears its head. I’ve just re read my first post on Chinese New Year, Snakes and Lai See, written when I moved to Hong Kong, for guidance. You may want to read this post too – if so you’ll find it archived in February 2013.
Our first Chinese New Year in Hong Kong, we didn’t give Lai See money apart from my husband giving to his junior colleagues in the office. He was “helped along” in this decision by his secretary offering to go to the bank for him and withdraw the brand new, crisp notes needed as well as supplying him with the red packets in which to put them in.
Foolishly we thought we were exempt from the cash gifting being gweilos. But let’s just say the Maitre d’ at our favourite restaurant was distinctly frosty towards us for months afterwards and my hairdresser was never the same towards me again.
While I tend to think the whole Lai See process – married people giving money to single, old to young etc – is a bit of a racket, I feel under pressure to join in or risk social Siberia for the rest of the year. Then again, my husband says he’d love to see the look on the face of the cleaner if I gave her oranges instead of cash.
I do love how the Chinese wrap it up as being auspicious for the give-ee though. I don’t feel particularly lucky for having to dole out cash to all and sundry. Talking of which, we discovered another little nugget about luck quite by accident. Having been invited to a colleague’s wedding but being unable to attend we were told that it was a good thing as we would have brought bad luck to the nuptials since we’d suffered a bereavement in our family. When will it be OK again? my husband asked, feeling pretty pleased with his smart alec-ness. “After 90 days” his secretary replied without a moment’s hesitation. This was after she had “suggested” he should give cash to bride and groom as a present. “But won’t giving them a present be unlucky too?” My husband questioned. No, apparently that’s OK.
So hey, Kong Hey Fat Choy!