The Year of the Snake does not stand out as a particularly auspicious one in the Chinese zodiac. Yet Hongkongers and other Chinese communities around the world have ushered in the new lunar year with the usual fanfare. As the Dragon fades away, with the woes it delivered last year, we pray that the Snake slithers in with more blessings.
A snake is, of course, not one of nature's most endearing creatures. Living in the shadow of the majestic dragon, a much-revered mythical beast in Chinese culture, the hissing reptile is traditionally not a symbol of great fortune. It is associated more with evil than luck in both the Western and Chinese worlds. But appearances can be deceptive. Sensitive and adaptive, the snake is renowned for being able to survive in extreme conditions - a quality readily possessed by Hongkongers.
Many must be happy to bid farewell to the Dragon. Politically, we have seen one of the most unsettling years in recent memory. Donald Tsang Yam-kuen left the helm in disgrace amid accusations of accepting favours and hospitality from tycoons. His successor, Leung Chun-ying, did not get off to a good start, either. He and his new team are battling one scandal and crisis after another. Economically, there was a lack of feel-good sentiment. That the slower-than-expected growth has not caused massive layoffs may perhaps be comforting. There may be more testing times ahead.
However, there is no reason to feel pessimistic. Domestically, our chief executive's first policy speech last month paved the way for better development. Our robust HK$700 billion fiscal reserve gives the finance chief more room to manoeuvre in his coming budget. At the national level, hopes are high that the new Chinese leaders will bring reform and development. With Beijing's firmly committed to Hong Kong's success, there is much to feel optimistic about.
The inauspicious fortune stick drawn in yesterday's ritual might not inspire much confidence. We hope rural leader Lau Wong-fat is right to say that the city will continue to prosper despite the bad omen. After all, the annual ritual is nothing more than a reminder that fortune comes and goes. As we hope for the best, we also prepare for the worst.
Just like the serpent, Hong Kong has proved to be resilient in times of difficulty and able to adapt to the environment. Each time we emerge stronger and better. As we hope for a better year ahead, we have to work harder to earn our success.