by Adam Wright
Lunar New Year - that lovely time of lai see, cherry blossoms and stuffing yourself silly - is a great time to be living in Hong Kong, or indeed any city around the world with a decent Chinatown.
And it's not just because of the public holidays. The shops close, the streets become deserted and a sense of calm sweeps over the city while we scare away evil spirits and misfortune with firecrackers and lion dances, and say to anyone who will listen: 'Congratulations - get rich!' (Kung Hei Fat Choi!).
During my first Lunar New Year in Hong Kong in 1996, I remember feeling almost as though I was in a different city. The blank faces and silence on the MTR had been replaced with smiles and happy chatter, children everywhere were dressed up in bright traditional outfits, near strangers were thrusting red packets into my hands, and my usually reserved neighbours were inviting me into their homes for copious food and drink.
Regardless of where you're from, it's hard not to get swept up in the ceremonies of the season and particularly the celebrations of Chinese culture - and right now with Lunar New Year approaching, you can't swing a fortune stick in Hong Kong without hitting some of that. Apart from Mao Zedong's Little Red Book, is there any book more closely associated with China than Journey to the West? It's known as one of the 'four great classical novels' of Chinese literature, alongside Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Water Margin and Dream of the Red Chamber, but is arguably more central to the culture of the Middle Kingdom than the others.
The classic tale has been updated into a rock-style action musical by the Sight, Sound & Action Sino-US theatrical production company - which has previously produced a range of action musicals that combine Chinese dance, martial arts and acrobatics - and is being presented at the Cultural Centre until Sunday (see preview on back page).
He may not be as venerated as the Monkey King, but Old Master Q remains a central figure in Hong Kong culture, particularly that of the 1960s, and manhua comics featuring the cranky old man in traditional dress can still be seen on the streets today. The Master has been the subject of 15 film adaptations - ranging from low-tech 2-D animations to full 3-D spectacles - and the latest, Old Master Q and Little Ocean Tiger, is now playing on screens all over town.
The Film Archive in Shau Kei Wan is also celebrating Lunar New Year in its Morning Matinee series with special screenings of comedies from the 1960s and 70s. The films include My Grandson, a comedy about a man who fakes insanity to get away from his meddling father, starring Patricia Lam Fung, Cheung Ying-choi and Fung Bo-bo. They are being screened from tomorrow until February 25.
One of the year's biggest celebrations of Chinese culture will come to the pedestrian zones of Paterson and Great George streets in Causeway Bay this Sunday in the form of the Confucius Carnival, a seven-hour stage performance of lion dancing and traditional music. And next Thursday there's the Cathay Pacific International Chinese New Year Night Parade, in which floats and performers from around the world will hit the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui in an explosion of colour and sound.
Finally, music followers aren't being left out of the cultural celebrations either. The Wynners were the city's biggest teen idols of the 1970s, breaking female hearts all over town with their bouffant hairstyles and flared trousers, and the band are reuniting once again for six concerts at the Coliseum from February 4-9. Another huge local boy band were Grasshopper, who dominated the scene in the 1980s, and original member Remus Choy Yat-kit has since carved out a successful career as a DJ and will be spinning at Central club Shake Shake on February 5.
Going Out wishes all of our readers a happy, healthy and prosperous Year of the Rabbit. Kung Hei Fat Choi!