December 22 is Winter Solstice when the Chinese get together on what is supposed to be the coldest day of the year.
And they should mark the occasion especially in southern China with all kinds of dishes including pork and chicken.
However, the Hong Kong government has found a chicken carcass infected with the H5N1 virus at a poultry market in Cheung Sha Wan.
Taking no chances, the authorities have begun culling 17,000 chickens and ordered the sale of all birds, even imported to terminate for three weeks until January 12.
The government does not know if the carcass was infected locally or from outside Hong Kong.
"I understand that it will cause inconvenience to the public, and the poultry trade will also encounter losses," Dr York Chow, Hong Kong's secretary for food and health said. "However, to safeguard public health, we need to adopt decisive and effective measures to prevent and control the spread of the virus."
Hong Kong is taking no chances after it experienced the first major outbreak of avian flu that spread to humans in 1997. Six people died and the government responded by slaughtering 1.4 million chickens, ducks and geese across the city. That outbreak was linked to chickens and classified as H5N1.
It will be disappointing for the seven million Hong Kongers who mark special occasions with chicken dishes, or eat the bird as part of their daily diet. However, erring on the side of caution, the government is taking extreme steps to protect its people.
Now that I think about it, there are some restaurants like Tsui Wah that is known for its boneless Hainan chicken rice dish, and also Yardbird, a yakitori restaurant in Sheung Wan that is completely centered around fresh chicken parts roasted on skewers.
Perhaps the menu will have a complete shift...