Seventies-style Chinese New Year | Gwulo: Old Hong Kong

Seventies-style Chinese New Year

Gung hei fat choy!

Over to a couple of contributors for memories of Chinese New Year in the late 1970s. First a photo from Cliff, showing the old HSBC building, decorated for the occasion:

1979 - Hong Kong Bank

Then Kirstin, who lived in Stanley at the time, describes the celebrations there:

... all the shops had new red and gold good luck papers on their doors, everything was cleaned and most shops closed for several days except for those selling candy, apples and melon seeds for people to give to others they visited.  All the children were bought new clothes, given red and gold packets with money inside and the village was full of loud lion dances for days.  Competing associations would sponsor lions who would dance past each other to and from the temple, stopping at the Earth God Altar, the Kaifong Association, and the shops.

Looking down on Chinese New Year from 4th floor, Sea and Sky Court
More Chinese New Year in Stanley, note village god small temple in back
Lion Dance in the market streets, Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year dance,Lion dance, Stanley Main Street, late 70s

In the temple to the Sea Goddess all the Taoist gods, including the God of Wealth, who wore a tall white hat upon which were written the Chinese characters, “One glance brings wealth,” were cleaned and all wore red ribbons.  Firecrackers came at midnight of the New Year in spite of a government ban on them, and the noise of the lion dances went on for days as well as special gonging and drumming from the temple.

Best wishes to Cliff, Kirstin, and all Gwulo's readers and contributors for a very happy and healthy year of the monkey.

Regards, David


Dear David, 

Going back beyond the seventies, over Chinese New Year the roads used to look green and red, covered with the broken paper of strings of fire crackers that had been hung from upper floors of tenements etc and fired. they seemed to be going off all day long.

Our amah, and Chinese work colleagues of my dad's , used to bring us presents, little straw bags with fruit etc.  

regards Barbara

Hi Barbara,

Fire crackers are banned now, so here in the city we don't see the roads covered in the broken paper like you describe. But, out in the villages they're still commonly used and it's possible to see that scene.

Here's a photo of firecrackers from the 1950s:

Celebrating Chinese New Year 1950s.
Celebrating Chinese New Year 1950s., by bosskwok

Regards, David

Yes, Barbara - firecrackers have officially been banned since the riots of 1967. Until then they were a regular feature of not just the CNY, but whenever a new shop or business opened a long string of firecrackers was hoisted high above the frontage resulting in the 'litter' as you describe. Piles of red casings from the spent firecrackers were quite common in the streets all year round.



Rooster and Elephant brands were popular in the early 1950s and the former gave a bigger bang for the "cent".  Next was the Swallow which was just as loud.  Yes, the streets and gutters were littered with red broken papers and rocket casings.  I blew much of my red-pocket money on firecrackers and the right shoulder got sore after flipping numerous lighted firecrackers into the air.  It was then a thrilling experience when a boy moved his lighted incense stick to the fuse.  Kite-flying was another favourite hobby for adults and children and the hot summer sun caused a different kind of burn causing shoulder skin to peel off.

The city has banned it for good reasons, but the fond memory remains.  Looking back, I was lucky to escape serious injuries.  When they exploded too close, the ears would ring with high pitch for minutes.  No alarm clock was needed starting Year-30-Night through the next several days.  All the Best to everyone in the Year of the Monkey.