The Fortune Deity Cometh
The lunar New Year is imminent and Hong Kong is basking in the soft winter sunshine.
And if you can ignore the dire air quality it is an ideal place to enjoy the early part of the year (top hiking weather).
Soon the New Year fair will open in Victoria Park and we will make our annual pilgrimage to buy the over-priced cherry blossoms and red berries that grace Hong Kong homes during the festival.
The sound of Sam Hui’s ‘Choi San Dou’ - a song for Chinese New Year about the Fortune Deity that comes and blesses everyone with riches - will bring a smile to the faces of us all.
The god of wealth is here and the lai see packets will be stuffed with new bank notes to hand out to friends, family and colleagues.
Protocol surrounding the giving and receiving of lai see baffles me still, but there are certain key individuals whose palms must be greased.
The gweilo worries whether he should give $20 or $200 whilst the young and cash-strapped wonder whether $10 is too mean.
One of our daughters erroneously handed out empty packets one year, much to her subsequent and enduring embarrassment.
If you know no other Cantonese you will soon learn to wish everybody Kung Hei Fat Choy (Happy Chinese New Year).
This will be the year of the pig. Luxury brands will sell pig-motif clothing and accessories for outrageous prices which. After just one outing it will be discarded, and the equivalent of the GDP of Cowdenbeath will disappear into the back of a drawer.
It is tradition that on the second day of the lunar New Year the head of the Hung Yee Kuk (the Rural Council) or some other luminary will shake the fortune sticks at the Che Kung Temple in Shatin. The chosen stick will foretell Hong Kong’s fortune for the coming year.
And while Mr Hu doesn’t have a fortune stick, here are his predictions for the year of the porker:
The Hang Seng index will go up on some days and down on others. There will be days when it doesn’t move at all, normally at weekends.
Property prices will go down unless they go up.
Pollution will generally get worse.
The government will continue to be inept. Where else could a by-pass (in planning and construction for decades) intended to alleviate congestion be the cause of even worse congestion?
The rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer, and Hong Kong will continue to have one of the highest gini coefficients in the world.
A single Scottish strawberry will be auctioned for a record price of HK$1,200. Wilbur Ross will ask why none of the poor people eat them. Let them eat Tasmanian cherries instead, he says.
The government will decide that the best way to solve the housing shortage is to fill in the gaps between the 263 islands.
A parking space will be sold for HK$25m. (Note to self: check whether this has happened already.)
A car will be spotted on the Hong Kong – Zuhai – Macau Bridge. Panic will break out and an investigation will be launched. It will turn out that Mrs Hu took a wrong turn in Shau Kei Wan and couldn’t find her way back to Central.
Admittedly, some of these are more likely to be right than others.
Life in Hong Kong remains fun for the fortunate. The New Year is the one time when most shops close and the roads are quiet.
The loudest noise will be from the lion dances and the illegal firecrackers. You may even be able to park illegally without fear of a ticket.
We are looking forward to time with the family, the fireworks display and the brief time when Hong Kong slows down, people smile and greet one another with ‘Sun nin fai lok’.
Mr. Hu wishes you all a very happy Chinese new year.