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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in Hong Kong Series at CantoneseClass101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind holidays and observances in Hong Kong. I’m Eric, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 1 - Chinese New Year.
As we all know, Hong Kong is where East meets West, so both Chinese and Western festivals are celebrated in Hong Kong.
In these 25 lessons, we'll introduce the holidays and festivals celebrated in Hong Kong.
Let's begin with the most important one- Lunar New Year, or 農曆新年 in Cantonese. Because it’s based on the Chinese calendar, this holiday falls on a different date every year. For example, in 2015, it was on February 19th, while in 2016 it will be on February 8th.
Now, before we get into more detail, I've got a question for you-
What color should you wear during the Lunar New Year?
If you don't already know, you’ll find out a bit later, so keep listening!
There are a lot of traditional customs that are carried out before and after the Lunar New Year.
Before the Lunar New Year, everyone is busy with all kinds of chores, like buying New Year’s foods, preparing red packets, getting haircuts, and purchasing new clothes. On the 28th day of the 12th month of the lunar calendar, everyone spring cleans their houses, which in Cantonese is referred to as 大掃除.
On New Year's Eve, family members gather and have a festive dinner together, called 團年飯.
On New Year's Day, people visit their parents and wish for good luck at shrines by burning incense.
On the second day of the New Year, the visits continue, and everyone watches fireworks in the evening.
When visiting relatives and friends during Lunar New Year, everyone offers auspicious greetings. You might have heard of the most famous New Year’s greeting, 恭喜發財, which means ‘Happy New Year and wishing you prosperity’.
The host decorates the home with a spring couplet and flowers, and prepares red packets, or 利是, a Chinese candy box, or 全盒, and rice cakes for their guests.
Eating rice cakes during Lunar New Year means wishing for improvement in all aspects of life. This is because in Cantonese and Chinese, the word “rice cake” or 年糕 sounds similar to the other word 年高, meaning “higher level in the year”.
The most interesting aspect of the Lunar New Year is the red packets, which is 利是 in Cantonese. These are small red or golden envelopes filled with money. Every married person prepares numerous red packets to give to their unmarried relatives and friends, as well as to the people who help them frequently in daily life, such as doormen and cleaners. Giving people red packets is seen as a way to share blessings and good luck with others.
Most companies also give employees red packets on the first day of work after the holiday as a blessing for a year of good fortune.
Though the Lunar New Year involves a lot of visits, there is also a day when you aren’t supposed to visit others. This would be the third day of the New Year, and it is because this day is considered unlucky, so you’re supposed to refrain from spreading the bad luck by visiting others’ homes. If nothing else, it’s a good excuse to take a break from the many visits you make on the first and second day of the New Year!
Now it's time to answer our quiz question-
What color should you wear during the Lunar New Year?
You should wear red during the Lunar New Year, because in Chinese culture, red, or 紅色 in Cantonese, represents “the joy” and “good luck.” Black and white, on the other hand, represent death, so be sure not to wear all black or white during this time!
How was this lesson? Did you learn anything interesting?
How do people celebrate the coming of the New Year in your country?
Leave us a comment at CantoneseClass101.com.
And I'll see you in the next lesson!