Chinese New Year flowers for dummies

Confession: I’m a horrible Chinese. It’s four days from Chinese New Year and I still haven’t cleaned or decorated my home!! (Half of that’s because I’m not really sure how to — yup, I’m kinda clueless.)

I know we need to have fresh flowers in the home since they represent ‘new birth and regrowth’ in the new year, but which ones should I get? If you’re having the same dilemma as me, here’s a quick guide to some of the most popular choices:

Peach blossom 

What they do: Help you live longer; give single people hope.
Why: The blossoms symbolise growth, prosperity, long life and romance.
Where to put it: In the oldest and nicest porcelain vase you have — it’s believed that the older the vase, the longer the flowers will bloom.

Kumquat tree

What it does: Make the money roll in.
Why: Gumgut (in Cantonese) is a pun for gold (gum) and good fortune (dai gut). 
Where to put it: In doorways.

Narcissus

What it does: Make you rich.
Why: Its yellow and white flowers represent gold, silver and wealth. Plus, they smell good.
Where to put it: In a shallow dish with smooth pebbles and filled with water.

Peonies

What they do: Bring luck and good fortune.
Why: Known as the ‘flower of riches and honour’ in Chinese, they symbolise feminine beauty, love and affection. Red ones are most popular for CNY. 
Where to put it: Anywhere that looks good!

Pussy willow

What they do: Bring money in (surprise!)
Why: The Chinese name ‘yin liu’ means ‘silver willow’, which sounds like ‘money flowing in’. If they bloom during the first 15 days of CNY, you’ve hit the jackpot!
Where to put it: In a container of water at room temperature in a cool, shaded area. 
Other popular flowers include orchids, lilies, azalea, sunflowers, and pretty much every flower under the sun (except roses, I think). For more on CNY flowers, check out this handy guide
And… should you want to send some CNY greetings to your friends and family, check out my all-new Miss Fong in Hong Kong CNY postcards!

MISSING!! Favourite concierges gone by…


It’s that time of year again – Chinese New Year – and you know what that means… It’s time to put on that tacky Chinese outfit you would never be seen in public with every other day of the year, time to drop our jaws for 20 minutes straight going ‘wahhhh’ for the same ol’ fireworks in Victoria Harbour and of course, time to shirk around all those building reception and security guards that we don’t really know or like enough to give them a red pocket (lai see).

I know it’s proper etiquette to give all of them a lil somethin’ somethin’ for the hard work they’ve been doing for the past year, but I just don’t believe in obligatory giving, especially when it’s to the masses and to pseudo-strangers at that. In fact, I’m proud to say that I am a strong supporter of special treatment, both giving and getting (aren’t we all?).

Anyway, now that the red pockets have been sneakily distributed to (only) those we’ve deemed ‘favorites’, I can’t help but reminisce at some of our favorite building concierges gone by…*sniff sniff*

Eggie

Eggie aka. Elgar/Egwart/Egwar (?) was the first reception guy in our building when we first moved to Hong Kong. A skinny, soft-spoken and dare I say nerdy guy, he could often be seen chatting on the phone with his ‘girlfriend’ (unconfirmed) during his regular graveyard shifts, unless he was asked for help, that is. No matter whether we asked him where we could order takeout, how to stream Premier League games or how to change our locks, he would always conduct intensive research before answering us, in the form of a 3 page handwritten note slipped discreetly into our mailbox the next morning. Sigh…he was so sweet!

Mickey

Mickey was a beautiful and sweet Hong Kong girl who always made me wonder what the hell she was doing as a reception girl in our building. To me, she could definitely enter and win any beauty pageant with her big (contact lens-enhanced) black eyes, porcelain skin and sweet as sugar giggles. One day, she even referred to our neighborhood as a ‘garbage land’ (translation: dump), so I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised when she silently disappeared one day…

Mongkok Guy

My personal favorite, Mongkok Guy was aptly named for his partly-shaved emo haircut and rough-looking features. A man in his mid-30s, one of his eyes was a little bit smaller than the other, which I assumed was a battle scar from a fight he’d survived versus other triad members in his past (or current?) life. Always friendly and helpful, we felt particularly hurt when he disappeared without telling us, especially when we had gone out on a limb by outwardly telling him he was “our favorite” guy! ::burn::

Unfortunately, all three of them disappeared without any notice at all, so I have no idea where they are now. I hope Eggie found a better job where he can actually spend the evenings with his said-girlfriend, and I have a feeling that Mickey and Mongkok Guy may have run off together (they seemed quite close and always worked the same shifts for some reason) but who knows?

If anyone out there has seen them, please let them know that they are sorely missed… and that their red pockets are here waiting for them! 😥

Chinese Halloween

They came like a swarm of bees. Loud, chattering and giggling away, a pack of 10-15 HK girls flooded our office, rushing towards all married people and asking for red pockets (lai-see).

“JOIN US!!” they squealed in high pitched voices, tugging on my arm as I sat frozen at my desk, eyes staring widely back at them. “C’mon!! Come with us!!” Before I could respond – off they went, swarming towards the other end of the office to pounce on all the other married folks down the hall.

A few minutes later, my colleague throws down a stack of at least 10 red pockets on my desk. “See what you missed out on??” he smirked, before taking his earnings back to his desk. Another male colleague raced by, laughing, “It’s the duty of us unmarried people to take money from the married ones, muahaha!”

I shrugged, not feeling all that comfortable at the thought of asking strangers for money, but at the same time feeling a little gypped for not having tagged along.

The next day, I put aside my Western ways and went along with a few other colleagues who hadn’t collected their red pockets yet, and got a good portion of red pockets myself =). Apparently, it’s very good luck not only to take red pockets from the married people, but they too like passing them out. Every time we approached our ‘victims’, s/he always had a stack of red pockets ready to go. In a way, it was quite similar to Halloween, only, the “candy” was money and instead of costumes, all we had to say were some nice lines like “Stay beautiful all year” or “Earn lots of riches!” or “Best health to you”, etc.

Wah! So easy ar!!