My family was poor when I was a child, but I had a lot of fond memories. When I think of my childhood, I think of the safe environment, friendly neighborhood, a slow pace of life, creativity of making toys and games, family closeness and simple life.
My favorite family time was Chinese New Year. We had one week off from school and my dad had five days off from work. On New Year’s Eve, Flower Markets took place in major parks. They were open from early evening on New Year’s Eve to 5:00 a.m. on New Year’s Day. One year, I went to the Flower Market with my older sister and her then boyfriend. We lived in Sai Wan, so we took the tram to Causeway Bay Park. By the time we were done walking through the entire market, there was no tram in operation until morning. We followed the tram track and took one hour and thirty-five minutes to walk home. I was half asleep even though my feet were moving with my sister holding my hand. My other hand was holding something my sister bought me. Since I was falling asleep, I dropped the thing on the ground. I bent down, picked it up and continued walking.
By the time we got home, my mom had made special food as part of the Chinese New Year ritual. We ate and then went to sleep for a few hours. On New Year’s Day, everyone put on new clothing. Kids would say, “Gung Hei Fat Choi” (Wishing you prosperous) to the parents and adults. Our parents and the adults in the neighborhood gave us kids Lucky Money in red envelopes. The tradition was that the married people gave Lucky Money to the kids and unmarried adults. We loved that because we could keep all of our Lucky Money. The first three days of Chinese New Year, we went to our relatives to wish them Happy New Year. The kids received Lucky Money from aunts and uncles.
We had our annual three activities on the 4th day of Chinese New Year. It was something we looked forward to because we did that year after year. We went to Tiger Balm Garden which was a private estate that eventually became a museum. After Tiger Balm Garden, we went to Botanic Arboretum, and then the Governor’s Garden which was open to the public during Chinese New Year.