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SFM #1: Hong Kong. Happy New Year of the Snake

By Robert Wu for his family and friends

Happy New Year. Sally and I wish you and yours a happy and prosperous Year of the Snake.

There is definitely a holiday atmosphere here in Hong Kong. People rush about buying gifts for family, flowers to spruce up the house, and food to pray with and indulge in. This year, I notice many children are dressed in traditional colorful Chinese clothing when they visit their relatives.

I remember Chinese New Years of my youth in Hong Kong were much more exciting. There would be three days of continuous firecracker explosions that fill the air with gunpowder smoke. Many families would pray and burn incense, filling the air with the strong scent of sandalwood. We looked forward to red envelopes with money gifts. With the loot, we children would rent bicycles and ride on deserted streets to tree-lined Kowloon Tong that differed from our teeming neighborhood.

Chinese New Years in New York’s Chinatown were more exciting than in Hong Kong today. I would go on parades with my gungfu club to perform dragon dance and martial art routines amid noisy cacophony of drums and gongs. February in New York is usually frigid, and we would walk gingerly on icy streets covered with red firecracker debris. We tried to look stoic as sidewalk onlookers threw strings of firecrackers at our entourage. I understand Mayor Giuliani has banned firecrackers in New York. Well, another tradition goes down the drain.

Nowadays, smoke from incense and firecrackers make me sneeze. But I miss those noisy and boisterous holidays.

Again, Happy New Year.

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