Once again the thorny issue of how much Lai See money to give rears its (horned) head so I’ve just re read my post on the eve of Chinese New Year last year, Why The Long Face for guidance. Incidentally, all my truisms mentioned there remain, though I would now replace keeping up with the Kardashians with Rich Kids of Beverly Hills*.
For the last few weeks my local supermarket has been driving me mad with incessant Chinese muzak. In much the same as it starts playing cheesey Christmas hits from November 1st onwards. No one is really sure whether it’s the Year Sheep, Ram or Goat. Take a look around Hong Kong and you’ll see examples of all. My theory is that retailers and hoteliers pick the cutest option in order sell product. I love the Little Bo Peep (or is it Marie Antoinette?) and her sheep at Laduree in the Landmark as the chocolate ram at the Mandarin Oriental Cake Shop. The Mandarin also have a gorgeous little furry, Chinese hatted ram waiting for guests in their room. What’s not to like! Whatever your choice of ovis, pregnant women in Hong Kong and Singapore have been rushing to have Ceaserians as they don’t want their children born in the Year of the Sheep/Ram/Goat. Apparently this will render them meek and not good at leadership.
Our first Chinese New Year in Hong Kong, we didn’t give Lai See money apart from my husband giving to his junior colleagues in the office. He was “helped along” in this decision by his secretary offering to go to the bank for him and withdraw the brand new, crisp notes needed as well as supplying him with the red packets in which to put them in.
Foolishly we thought we were exempt from the cash gifting being gweilos. But let’s just say the Maitre d’ at our favourite restaurant was distinctly frosty towards us for months afterwards and my hairdresser was never the same towards me again.
While I tend to think the whole Lai See process – married people giving money to single, old to young etc – is a bit of a racket, I feel under pressure to join in or risk social Siberia for the rest of the year. Then again, my husband says he’d love to see the look on the face of the cleaner if I gave her oranges instead of cash.
I do love how the Chinese wrap it up as being auspicious for the give-ee though. I don’t feel particularly lucky for having to dole out cash to all and sundry. Talking of which, we discovered another little nugget about luck quite by accident. Having been invited to a colleague’s wedding but being unable to attend we were told that it was a good thing as we would have brought bad luck to the nuptials since we’d suffered a bereavement in our family. When will it be OK again? my husband asked, feeling pretty pleased with his smart alec-ness. “After 90 days” his secretary replied without a moment’s hesitation. This was after she had “suggested” he should give cash to bride and groom as a present. “But won’t giving them a present be unlucky too?” My husband questioned. No, apparently that’s OK.
But I digress. Happy New Year of the Sheep, Ewe or (my personal favourite) Stone Goat.
Kong Hey Fat Choy.
*In this incidence, RichKids would actually be useful. I bet Dorothy Wang knows exactly how much Lei See to give everyone.