Sunday, 10 February 2013

New Year's Eve Madness

Packed to the gills at the entrance of Victoria Park's Chinese New Year fair
While the Year of the Snake is upon us, I followed a few traditions leading up to the New Year.

These toys were very popular and were sold out at this stall
Yesterday I cleaned up my flat, vacuuming and mopping the floor as well as cleaned all my clothes. I also put up fai chun or festive couplets om my door and of course got the requisite lai see ready to hand out to people, typically the staff who open the door in my apartment building and the cleaning staff at the gym I see regularly.

And since I hadn't been for many years, I thought it would be fun to check out the Chinese New Year fair at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay.

I went after dinner and the buses dropped us off way before Sogo department store which meant an extra 10 minutes' walk to get there. Closer to Victoria Park there were police everywhere, directing traffic, both cars and pedestrians, and even a few first aid stations, though those were hardly busy.
Politician Audrey Eu and her calligraphy

And once I got into the park, it was completely packed with people, and you basically could only go in one direction; going against the flow was not recommended.

It really did have a carnival-like atmosphere even though we were practically pushed forward by people behind us. Stalls were selling all kinds of things you don't need, but since many are superstitious and believe you should buy something new for the new year, many were tempted into parting with their money.

Some include giant stuffed yellow balls that were supposed to be fish balls with various facial expressions, giant stuffed rabbits and bears that would probably make good hugging companions for bedtime, or boxer shorts with snakes on them. Apparently snakes curled up and placed on one's head like a hat were popular, but I didn't see many people wearing those.

Leung Chun-ying's name upside down with his devilish face
There were also more traditional Chinese things to buy such as pinwheels to bring in fortune, or politicians showing off their calligraphy skills by writing fai chun for a small donation to their political party. We are impressed by the Civic Party's Audrey Eu Yuet-mei's calligraphy skills who held her brush at the top, making it more difficult to control, but she did a great job writing "wishing you good health" (身体健康).

She had admitted in an interview before that when she became a politician she didn't expect to have to do calligraphy, but she took lessons and actually enjoyed it very much. So that's come in handy as she didn't mind sitting outside writing almost non stop for only HK$20 per couplet.

Other political parties took the opportunity to slam Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in front of a large audience. They handed out what was supposed to be the word "fortune" upside down in red pieces of paper, but in fact it was the word "Leung" upside down and then below it a devilish looking CE.

Still many orchids for sale at the flower stalls
The flower stalls were very fragrant thanks to the narcissus that were already in bloom thanks to the warm temperatures we'd had for the past several days. Flower sellers were having a hard time selling these plants off because people don't want to buy ones that have already bloomed.

Nevertheless, orchids were very popular, and even though I'd visited the fair after 9pm, there were still tons of plants and flowers still not snapped up.

They were also selling this orange plant called solanum mammosum, which is supposed to be auspicious during Chinese New Year. You couldn't help but take a picture of the impressive tower at one stall.

A giant tower of solanum mammosum like gold
And what's a fair without food? Lots of Chinese snacks were for sale, including candied fruit on a stick as well as waffles, fresh sugar cane drinks and more western treats like candy floss and popcorn.

I only went through about one-third of the fair, but had a good taste of what was going on. It was fun to check it out and soak in the lively atmosphere.

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