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Every year we experience many traditional Chinese and Western festivals. Whether it is Lunar New Year, Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival, Halloween, Christmas, they all have their own traditions and customs. Even though many people follow these traditional customs to "celebrate the festival", the meaning and origin of these customs are seldom understood. We would like to share with you some of the stories behind these traditional festivals and customs.
 
Valentine's Day

(We apologise that only Chinese version is available)

 
起源
 
關於西方情人節的起源,據學者指出是源于古羅馬時期。傳統上,2月13日至15日這段時間是古羅馬人的牧神節,男性會割下作為祭品的山羊和狗的毛皮,並以獸皮鞭打女性以示愛意。
 
於牧神節期間,有一項抽籤儀式,由年輕男性從罐子裡抽出女性的名字,兩人在牧神節期間成為一對情侶,若情投意合的話,牧神節結束後也會繼續在一起,甚至結婚。更多


情人節的名字Valentine’s Day,亦可能源自古羅馬。在西元三世紀時,古羅馬皇帝克勞狄烏斯二世分別於不同年的2月14日,處死2位名為瓦倫坦(Valentine)的男子,羅馬教會則稱頌這兩位殉道者,把這天定名為St. Valentine's Day。後來St. Valentine's Day和牧神節加以結合,演變成有愛情色彩的節日。大文豪例如喬叟和莎士比亞在作品中把這個節日浪漫化,讓情人節在英國和歐洲其他地區愈來愈受歡迎,甚至飄洋過海,逐漸演變成為今日人們熟知的「情人節」。

 
傳統習俗

 
送花
說到情人節,一定離不開玫瑰花。原來,情人節與玫瑰花的關聯,要追溯到1700年代瑞典的查理斯二世把波斯人的「花語」帶回歐洲。據說玫瑰是羅馬愛神維納斯最喜愛的花,因此也成為情人節的代表。到今天,每逢情人節,男士都會在當天向心儀的女性贈上美麗的鮮花,表達心意。
 
聚餐
在情人節,男女朋友或夫妻都會在這一天過「二人世界」,不論是在餐廳享用精心安排的「燭光晚餐」,或在家中享用一頓平凡溫馨的晚餐,都是情人節不可或缺的一環。
 
送禮物
除了送花以外,情人節亦是情人之間互表愛意的日子。無論男女雙方,都可以在這一天,考慮對方的喜好,為對方送上心意禮物,可以是香水、手制小禮物、卡片等等。有不少人會在這一天贈送朱古力,可以是市售的或者手制的,寓意甜甜蜜蜜、幸福的愛情。


參考資料:
情人節的由來
西洋情人節的由來
 
 
Chinese New Year

(We apologise that only Chinese version is available)


傳說和起源:

農曆新年是指年初一,即農曆的元旦。農曆新年有春節、歲首、正旦、新春的別稱。對於春節起源,其實有各種說法,而當中比較廣為人知的是和「年」有關的傳說。更多

「 年 」是什麼呢?「年」是一種野獸,稱為年獸,每逢過年,就會外出搗亂和覓食人類。當時不少的村莊,因為年獸遭遇滅頂之災。在機緣巧合之下,大家發現年獸畏懼紅色、火光、巨響,於是就衍生出 貼對聯、放鞭炮(放炮仗)、紅包 (利是)、穿著紅色衣物等,以驅趕、阻嚇年獸。正正是因為這樣,才有了我們現在的新年傳統習俗 。

 
傳統習俗
 
大掃除:大掃除又叫「掃塵」,有掃走一切晦氣之意。這個習俗從唐朝開始盛行。各家各戶在過年前均會大掃除清洗傢具,拆洗被褥窗簾等,務求令家中窗明几淨,迎接新年。
 
貼福字: 貼福字一般是倒著貼,「 倒福 」和「 到福 」諧音,象征福氣到了。不過亦有人認為倒著貼象征把福氣倒走,會正貼福字。
 
行花市 : 行年花市買年花 ,可以說是經典 香港新年活動 之一。香港的熱門的大型新年花市 地點有維多利亞公園、旺角花墟、深水埗長沙灣遊樂場、黃大仙摩士公園等等……
 
買年花 : 在買年花的時候,大家一般會重視當中的「意頭」 ,希望可以在新的一年帶來好運。常見的年花有 桃花、菊花、牡丹、梅花、蘭花、建蘭、水仙花 、銀柳、桔等。
 
穿新衣:去舊迎新,新年穿新衣寓意新的開始。在顏色上,主要是以紅色為主。
 
拜年:拜年時,雙方見面要先說祝賀的說話,然後已婚人士向未婚人士派利是。

 

派利是 :又稱 紅包、利市。利是通常是由已婚人士給予未婚的年輕人士。所以並不是每個人都可以 派利是 !華人社會講究 利是金額 ,必須為 雙數 ,並且會避免和 「 4 」有關的金額,因為數字「 4 」和「 死 」諧音。當中「 8 」和「 發 」諧音,寓意發達、發財,不少人 封利是 時,會取和 「 8 」有關的金額。什麼時候才會封奇數金額?只有在喪葬封 帛金 才會出現。
 
舞龍舞獅:農曆新年期間,特別是商戶或者屋邨會安排舞龍、舞獅,祈求辟除邪氣、帶來好運。 了解更多習俗……

傳統禁忌
 
初一
這天忌掃地、洗衣服,就連洗頭和洗澡也應避免,因為上述行為被視作把財運掃掉,將福氣沖走!另外要注意別在這天打破碗碟和瓷器等物品,因為中國人大多認為打破東西會破財破運……了解更多禁忌……

Christmas

(We apologise that only Chinese version is available)


 
起源   

「聖誕節」的英文寫法Christmas是希臘文和拉丁文的組合。Christ是希臘文 Χριστός 的音譯,意思是受膏者。更多


「受膏」是把橄欖油或用香肉桂、菖蒲、橄欖油等混成的「聖膏油」,抹在人或物件上,使之為聖歸屬於神。在新約聖經中,「受膏者」就是指耶穌基督。mas則來自拉丁文missa,意指解散,彌撒結束了,教徒可以解散,後來引申為教會的感恩聚會。Christmas可以縮寫為 Xmas,是因為X是希臘文Χριστός的首個字母。

中文採用「聖誕節」這名稱,是因為民間把神仙的誕辰都稱為聖誕,而耶穌是西方的聖人,所以就稱為「聖誕節」。80年代,台灣政府認為在中華文化中的聖人應指孔子、孟子,曾將「聖誕節」改稱為「耶誕節」,這名稱至今仍有人在使用。
 


傳說

聖誕老人是誰?



一般認為聖誕老人源自基督教的紅衣主教聖尼古拉(St. Nicholas)。四世紀時,聖尼古拉在美雅(即現在的土耳其)傳教,他以善行著稱,最著名的一次是他以金子援助三個貧窮的姐妹,避免她們淪為奴隸或落入煙花之地。更多


聖尼古拉在歐洲的聲望日重,被人們視為兒童和水手的保護者。即使在宗教改革之後,很多國家不再崇拜聖徒,但聖尼古拉的聲譽不損,特別在荷蘭,當地人稱聖尼古拉為 Sinter Klaas,更將每年十二月六日定為聖尼古拉節:穿着傳統主教長袍的聖尼古拉會騎着馬,帶着助手黑彼得,在車隊、銅管樂隊的簇擁下進行一場盛大的遊行。小孩把鞋子放在窗戶、壁爐旁等地方,希望聖尼古拉經過時,會放進巧克力硬幣、糖果等禮物。據説助手黑彼得負責記錄孩子過去一年的行為,行為好的,便會得到禮物;不好的,便會被黑彼得裝在麻袋裏,帶回西班牙學習行為一年。

這些慶祝活動在17世紀時傳到被荷蘭佔領的紐約,而 Sinter Klaas音譯成英文後,就是Santa claus---這個現代聖誕老人的名稱。

而傳説中聖誕老人的故鄉在哪裏?歷來對此爭論不休。1995年,聯合國秘書長加利給聖誕老人的節日賀卡寄去了芬蘭北部、位於北極圈上的羅瓦涅米,至此那裏就成了聖誕老人的家。聖誕老人村裏天天都是聖誕節,人們可以和聖誕老人合照,冬季時更可以坐着馴鹿拉的雪橇遊走雪白的森林。  


傳統習俗
 
聖誕除了吃火雞、布丁,還會吃薑餅。薑在古代歐洲是昂貴的香料,只有貴族才買得起。相傳16世紀時,英國女王伊莉莎白一世為感謝客人的到訪,就命厨師將薑餅製作成客人的模樣。更多


後來薑逐漸平民化,民間也烤起了薑餅人,成為了聖誕節的經典食物。 報佳音這習俗源自天使向伯利恆的牧羊人報告耶穌誕生的喜訊。後來為了讓更多人知道耶穌降世的消息,教會的聖詩班或信徒便仿效天使,挨家挨戶地唱起聖誕頌歌。 跟其他國家不同,挪威人認為巫婆和魔鬼會在平安夜出沒,所以這天必須把巫婆的魔法工具---掃把藏好,避免巫婆來打擾自己,帶來厄運。


拆禮物日



拆禮物日是在聖誕節之後一天,12月26日。拆禮物日的英文名稱是boxing day,但跟拳擊運動無關,而是在過去,貴族會送聖誕小禮物、錢、聖誕晚餐的剩菜放進箱子給僕人,教會也會把用箱子收集來的捐款,在這一天打開分發給窮人。這些施捨的做法已不復存在,但名稱卻保留了下來。香港人會在這天拆聖誕禮物,但在英國等國家,人們最熱門的活動是觀看足球賽事、購物等。


Winter solstice

 
Origin   

The winter solstice is also called the "winter festival". "Solstice" in Chinese means "extreme", and "winter solstice" signifies that the cold and gloomy weather has reached its extreme. Generally, after the winter solstice, the ‘Yang’ in the universe will begin to sprout, and daylight hours will gradually increase. Hence the saying , "Yang is born at the winter solstice". After the day, winter will slowly go away to make room for the return of spring. In ancient times, people paid respects to their parents and elders on the winter solstice. It was also a day when contracts were signed and executed.  continue reading


People have always attached great importance to the winter solstice. Those who travel far to earn a living will do their best to return home to reunite with their family at the winter solstice, signifying they have a home to go back to at the end of the year. There is a common saying in Fujian and Taiwan: "The winter solstice is more important than the new year ; if you do not return home, you are not paying respects for your own ancestors".An author once wrote, "if winter comes, can spring be far behind?" The winter solstice is indeed the prelude and precursor of the lunar new year.

It is an important turning point in the year. From a scientific point of view, the winter solstice is the day when the sun shines directly on the Tropic of Cancer. People living in the northern hemisphere will feel that the day has become short and the night long. After the winter solstice, the sun moves progressively northwards, and daylight gradually increases while the night becomes shorter.

When it comes to traditional festivals, most people will consult the lunar calendar. Have you noticed that the winter solstice usually falls on December 21 or 22 ? In fact, not only the winter solstice, but all the 24 solar terms are determined based on the "Solar calendar". This is because our ancestors, too, fixed the solar terms by observing meticulously the position of the noon sun in the year. Due to the tilt of the earth's axis, the exact date of the solar term may vary by 1 or 2 day


Traditions
 


Sweet dumplings

As far back as the Zhou dynasty, there was already a special national sacremnetal ceremony for the winter solstice. In the Book of Zhou Rites, it was written, « at the winter solstice, offerings are made to the Heaven, the gods, the people and the ghosts ». Later in the Han Dynasty, the winter solstice became a much celebrated festival, generating more and more festive customs. In southern China, the most popular practice is to eat winter solstice food such as "sweet dumplings" or "Mochi".It is customary to dye the traditional dessert in red to form dumplings laced in red and white, symbolising the "intersecting of yin and yang".
 
Dumplings and wonton

There is a saying that one should "eat dumplings at the winter solstice and noodles at the summer solstice". Northern Chinese believe that during cold winter days, the body uses up more calories and more nutritious food is required to supply the body with energy. Eating dumplings and wontons at the winter solstice have then become a popular practice. Wonton in Chinese has a similar spoken sound as ‘chaos » ; and so eating wontons at the winter solstice symbolises the transition of the Yin to Yang, of the old to new , when the universe is in a chaotic flux.
 
 

Worship ancestors
 
On the day of winter solstice , most families will prepare offerings to gods and ancestors, some will pay respects to the god of Foundation as well. The following is a brief introduction to the worship procedures to gods and ancestors:  continue reading

 

  • Time: early morning of the winter solstice or a dedicated auspicious hour.
  • Location: the offering table is placed in front of the Hall of god
  • Offerings: three cups of water and three bowls of glutinous rice balls for the gods and the same for the ancestors.
  • Gold paper: gold paper is regarded as “money” for the ancestors. Therefore, when they make offerings to the gods and the ancestors, they will prepare different kinds of gold paper with various designated monetary value.

Thanksgiving Day

 
Origin   

As the name suggests, Thanksgiving Day is the day to express ‘thankfulness’ and what we are grateful for. Thanksgiving Day is a public holiday in western countries such as Canada and America. There are several legends about the origin of Thanksgiving.  continue reading


In America, Thanksgiving originated from the English colonists sailing from Britain to the Americas. After their long journey, the English pilgrims obtained help from Native Americans and started their new lives in the new world. Thus, from now on, the tradition of celebrating gratitude to God and the Native Americans became a festival called Thanksgiving Day.

In Canada, Thanksgiving Day originated with Martin Frobisher, who sailed from England and finally arrived in Canada after a long journey full of danger and hardship. As the origin of Thanksgiving Day can trace back to the 16th century, it is said that the origin of Thanksgiving Day in Canada is earlier than America’s.

In Canada, Thanksgiving Day is held on the second Monday of October while in America, it is on the fourth Thursday in November.
 


Traditions
  
Family meal

As a day of giving thanks, it is common for a family to share a meal on Thanksgiving Day. A family meal usually includes traditional dishes, such as pre-cooked turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potato, jam, corn, vegetables and pumpkin pie.

Black Friday

Thanksgiving is a statutory holiday in both Canada and America. Following the first day of Thanksgiving is ‘Black Friday’. On this day, department store chains and shops launch their sale promotions to boost sales. Thus, shopping becomes a modernized tradition on Thanksgiving Day.

 
 

Parades and Sports

On Thanksgiving Day, parades are held in public places in America, like the world's largest parade, "Macy's Thanksgiving Parade", in New York City. Other cities or towns also have their own parades, performances or sports competitions for people to enjoy and celebrate together.
 

Souces:
Thanksgiving Day (Wikipedia)
Thanksgiving Day (Twsnap)
Thanksgiving Day (Britannica)
 


Halloween

 
Origin   

There are different versions about the origin of Halloween. The date of Halloween is November 1, but most people celebrate Halloween on October 31. Most people believe that it originates from the traditional harvest festival of the British Celts (perhaps also a festival celebrating the end of summer).  continue reading


The Celts believe that the last day of October marks the end of summer and the beginning of winter. It is an important landmark in the year, and also one of the most important festivals, which they call the "Day of the Dead" or the "Ghost Festival". It is believed that all kinds of evil spirits will haunt the earth on the day, and that the souls of the deceased will leave the underworld, wander the world and visit their relatives and friends. Nighttime is particularly scary. In order to scare away the evil spirits, the Celts would wear masks to walk around in the village. This is how Halloween is originated.
 


Traditional customs
 
Trick or Treat!

"Trick or treat!” is one of the main activities during Halloween. It is especially popular in English-speaking countries, such as Britain, the United States, Canada, etc.continue reading

Children, dressed up as ghosts, will go and press the doorbells of neighbours . Shouting "trick or treat! (which means "treat us to candies or we will wreak havoc!") to neighbours opening the door (who may also wear scary clothes), the children will receive some candies or chocolate or small gifts. Sometimes petty cash is given to them as well . Some families even use sound effects and smoke-making machines to create an eerie atmosphere. Children often receive bags of sweets to take home in one single night .
 


Ghost costumes

Traditional Halloween decorations include zombies, ghosts, witches, demons, etc. The typical outfit for a ghost is a white sheet costume with two holes cut out for the eyes to see. continue reading  


[in the 19th century, people in Scotland and Ireland believed that ghosts visited the earth on Halloween. They would therefore dress up as ghosts to confuse the ghosts into thinking that they too were phantoms. In recent years, Halloween costumes are not restricted to ghost outfits. People dress up and cross-dress in different ways to impersonate film stars and television personalities or public figures such as George Bush or John Kerry during the 2004 U.S. presidential election. For instance, after the September 11 attacks in 2011, children love to dress up as firefighters and policemen


 
Carved pumpkin lanterns (jack-o-lantern)
 
The Jack-o'- lantern (Jack-o'- lantern or Jack-of-the-lantern, the former, an abbreviated form, is more commonly used) is a Halloween symbol. There are many versions of stories on the origin of the name "jack-o'- lantern", the most popular one being from the 18th century Irish folklore.continue reading


Legend has it that there was a man called Jack (in 17th century England, people usually called an unknown man 'Jack'). He was very stingy and was also in the habit of drinking and playing pranks on the others. As he had pulled pranks on the devil twice, he discovered after his death that he could neither enter Heaven nor go to Hell. All he could do was to wander in between for all eternity. Out of pity, the devil gave him some coal, which Jack used to light up the turnip lantern (in the beginning, most pumpkin lanterns were actually carved out with turnips). He carried thus his turnip lantern and wandered around eternally. Nowadays, to scare away wandering spirits, people usually use turnips, beets or potatoes to carve out scary faces as a representation of the Jack with the lantern. This is the story on the origin of the pumpkin lantern.

Chung Yeung Festival


 
Origin   
 
There are many stories about the origin of Chung Yeung Festival. The most well-known one is… …continue reading


Legend has it that during the Han dynasty, a man with the name Huan Jing was notified by a Taoist that he must bring his family to the top of a mountain to avoid a plague that would soon ravage his hometown. The Taoist told him to fetch a bag of cornel leaves and a bottle of Chrysanthemum wine. Huan Jing listened to the Taoist, brought his family into the mountain, and successfully avoided the disaster on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month. Since then, climbing a mountain, carrying cornel and drinking chrysanthemum wine became the traditional customs of Chung Yeung Festival.


Traditional customs

Respect the old and ancestors
Chung Yeung Festival is on ninth day of the ninth lunar month. In Chinese, this date’s pronunciation is same as ‘久久’ (lifelong), adding the meaning of longevity to the festival. Thus, Chung Yeung Festival becomes a festival of respecting the old people, and loving, helping the elders… … continue reading


Besides the Ching Ming Festival, Chung Yeung Festival is dedicated to worshipping ancestors. At Chung Yeung Festival, many families will bring offerings to visit the graves of dead family members. In addition, it is said that the ancients carried cornel as accessories when climbing mountains and using Argy Wormwood Leaf for bathing to avoid misfortunes. Though these customs are fading in the modern world, some regions in China still keep these traditions alive.




Offerings

Traditionally, the most common offerings to worship the ancestors are pork, fish, chicken, duck or fruits, including apples, oranges … … continue reading


The main reason for bringing food as an offering is to let the family enjoy a good meal in harmony, showing respect to the ancestors. In traditional customs of Guangdong, roasted pig or suckling pig is the most commonly used offerings. In addition, people often bring chrysanthemum wine and fresh chrysanthemum flowers for worshipping their ancestors. However, many people have followed Western tradition in recent years and only brought flowers to visit the graves to minimize the waste left behind.


Climbing mountains
Chung Yeung Festival is during Autumn, a good season for everyone to climb mountains and enjoy sightseeing with their beloved ones. … …continue reading


For most people living in the cities, grave sweeping and sightseeing or hiking are not the things to be done simultaneously. The government also encourage people to avoid leaving unextinguished fires, which may cause hill fires when hiking or grave sweeping. Some graveyards in Hong Kong are built on the hillside, so those celebrating the festival can hike whilst grave sweeping.


Mid-Autumn Festival

 
Origin
 
According to the lunar calendar, August is designated as the second month of autumn, hence the name "Mid-Autumn". The Chinese calendar also divides the year into 24 "solar terms", of which the "autumnal equinox" is always marked by a full moon shining in the evening. Even back in ancient times, the tradition of making offerings to the moon on autumn nights was well established. The full moon was wished upon for reunion of loved ones, for abundant harvests and for happiness.  
 
The Mid-Autumn Festival is said to have originated from the celebration of the autumn harvest, which was also a time to show respect and gratitude to the gods. continue reading


The Mid Autumn Festival, moved later to August 15 of the lunar calendar, is a day when family members gather together to enjoy the beauty of the moon, eat mooncakes and play with lanterns. These customs are passed down from generation to generation, becoming in themselves a rich, colourful and precious cultural heritage.


Traditional customs

Mid-Autumn Festival Moon Worship
Moon worship is one of the traditional activities during the Mid-Autumn Festival. The Book of Rites of ancient times already made reference to the “worshipping of moon on autumnal full moon evenings”, which means worshipping the Moon God, welcoming the forthcoming winter cold and making offering to the moon by setting up an incense table. During the Tang and Song dynasties, to celebrate the Moon Festival became even more popular. There are many stories pertaining to the worship of the moon… continue reading


The most famous legend is the flight of Chang'e to the moon. The story goes that in ancient times, there were ten suns in the sky. Everything perished and suffered in the scorching heat until the hero Hou Yi, in order to save the world, shot down nine of the ten suns . He requested and obtained from the Heavenly Queen Mother a packet of magic potion which would make him immortal. One day, his wife Chang'e swallowed the potion in times of danger and became instantly immortal herself. Unfortunately, the strong potion made her fly to the moon and she had to stay there in the Guanghan Palace for eternity. Ever since, Hou Yi and Chang'e were separated and all they could do was to yearn for each other from afar. When other people learnt of the story, they set up incense tables under the moon to pray to Chang'e for their own auspiciousness and safety. It is in this way that the custom of moon worship at the Mid-Autumn Festival gradually takes shape.


Eating moon cake

The word mooncake, derived from the Southern Song Dynasty Wu Zimao's "Dream Liang", was only a snack food ... … continue reading


Mooncakes were known as "palace cakes" during the Northern Song Dynasty and were first popular in imperial palaces but later became “"cookies" and "mooncakes" among the common folks. As time went by, these cakes were used for moon worship to symbolize the wholeness of family, harmony and longingness to see someone you love.. Moon cakes are now commonly used as gifts for friends during the Mid-Autumn Festival , so exchanging moon cakes has become a well-established tradition. 】 Another legend about moon cakes is related to Zhu Yuanxuan's establishment of the Ming Dynasty .


Another legend about moon cakes is related to Zhu Yuanxuan's establishment of the Ming Dynasty . .....…… continue reading


In the last years of the Yuan Dynasty, people’s livelihood became intolerable due to the poor rule of the Mongol Empire. Zhu Yuanxuan united the resistance forces and planned an uprising on Mid-Autumn Festival to overthrow the Mongol Empire. As court scrutiny was very strict, the transmission of information was very difficult Military adviser Liu Bowen came up with an idea. He ordered his men to write "Kill the mule on August 15" on a note hidden in moon cakes, and distributed the cakes to rebel groups all over the country. On the day of Mid-Autumn Festival, all people rebelled together. After Zhu Yuanxuan seized the country rule, he gave moon cakes to his courtiers every year in Mid-Autumn Festival as a remembrance of the secretive passage of messages inside the cakes. Today, the giving and eating of moon cakes has evolved into a tradition in Mid-Autumn Festival among family and friends.