January 24, 2017
Few new year celebrations on any calendar, anywhere in the world, can match the dazzling spectacle of Chinese New Year.
Also known as Lunar New Year, this is the big one for Chinese communities across the globe – the only time in every 12-month cycle that business stops, tools are downed and the party begins. And what a party, with Chinese music, family feasts, public lion dances and sensational fireworks displays!
Every year, in preparation, the house undergoes a thorough spring clean – this is, after all, the Spring Festival too – before lanterns, coloured paper cut-outs and auspicious poetic couplets, rendered in calligraphy, are hung. Typical themes are good fortune, happiness, wealth and longevity, with New Year decorations always presented in vivid gold and red.
Traditionally, celebrations begin on New Year’s Eve – which falls this year on 27 January – with a family reunion dinner. They last for about 15 days, until the middle of the first lunar month. The reunion dinner, the most important part of the festivities, triggers the biggest human migration on the planet, as millions of people travel back home from far and wide to be with their loved ones. Naturally, with its global reach, Virgin Atlantic plays no small part in helping people find their way home in time for the revelries!
At midnight, as the Year of the Rooster is ushered in for 2017-18, fireworks (invented, of course, in China) will be set off, either in small rural celebrations or big-city pyrotechnical extravaganzas. Auspicious new year foods will again be shared, each dish or treat signifying good fortune for the coming 12 months, with sticky rice cake, carrot cake, melon seeds and pumpkin seeds all especially popular.
New Year’s Day also sees the beginning of the highly anticipated tradition of the giving and receiving of the famous lai see packets. As families and friends pay visits to each other and exchange gifts, lai see, or lucky money, is presented, according to a centuries-old custom. Lai see is usually given by married couples to children and the elderly to wish them good fortune in the year ahead, although unmarried people may also greet married couples with a request for lai see! It is customary for children to wish their elders a year of health, good fortune and happiness before accepting their red and gold packets.
With our daily, direct Hong Kong to London flight – and having served travellers on the route for more than 20 years – Virgin Atlantic loves to join in the fun. So every year we create a collectible set of nine vivid lai see packets, each bearing a unique illustration – and, this time round, a Rooster-inspired greeting.
This year, we gave away 1,000 complete sets of our sought-after lai see packets – featuring world-famous landmarks such as Tower Bridge and Big Ben, plus Hong Kong’s own stunning skyline – to the most accomplished players of our online game The Eagle Catches the Chickens, inspired by local custom. And the enjoyment continues offline too: our charming lai see packets are perfect for playing the game Who is the Eagle? in which nine players select one red packet each, the winner being the one of the eight chickens who unmasks the eagle before being caught!
Brad West, Virgin Atlantic’s Head of Asia Pacific, said “All of us at Virgin Atlantic would like to wish everyone a successful “take off” into a richly rewarding Rooster New Year. Our Hong Kong to London route has been an important part of our network for twenty years, and we’re excited to share this fun and engaging take on lai see packets. People across Hong Kong can participate and join in the Chinese New Year celebrations at this time of renewal and reunion.”