Monkeys and astronauts are all fair game

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 January, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 January, 2004, 12:00am

Lunar New Year celebrations are starting to hit full swing across the city

Monkeys are running amok at Lunar New Year fairs this year as the zodiac sign turns up in the form of everything from slippers to talking stuffed toys.

The symbolic simians are dominating stalls at fairs which opened across Hong Kong yesterday, although there are also plenty of toy rockets and astronauts for the patriotically minded.

Stallholder Enzo Chung said the toy manufacturer for which he worked had had two rocket and spaceship products designed especially for the markets this year.

'We thought about making these products even before China's rocket launch, but after that we became even more confident,' he said.

Mr Chung and a few of his colleagues have rented two booths at Victoria Park and stocked them with more than 10,000 toys. He said they hoped business would be good this year as the economy seemed to have recovered.

Sabina Chan Ming-yan, a 19-year-old student, rented a booth with her classmates to gain business experience during their semester break. They have stocked up on stuffed monkeys and cushions made from Michael Owen and David Beckham soccer jerseys.

'It is going to be the Year of the Monkey so we're hoping that it will become a hot trend,' she said.

Mandi Cheung Lai-ping, a real estate agent, was inspired by something else, though. She came up with the idea of a wishing booth, where people pay $20 to fly their wish heavenward in a paper hot-air balloon.

She was inspired by the spate of negative events last year, including the Sars outbreak, and wanted to give people hope.

'The concept is that we're hoping the world will become a better place and it's also to root for Hong Kong,' Ms Cheung said.

Aside from entrepreneurial ventures, non-profit organisations also wanted to spread their message.

The Industrial Evangelistic Fellowship was promoting its rehabilitation centre for problem gamblers yesterday at its stall in the Fa Hui Park in Mongkok.

Volunteers were handing out fai chuns, or Lunar New Year blessings, that read 'Win by letting go' as a way to encourage gamblers to end their bad habit.

'The New Year is a trigger for gambling,' said Ip Yung Wai-mui, a staff member of the centre. 'Gamblers like winning money to start the year off so that they will have luck the rest of the year. We want to give a counter message.'