Monday was my first day back in the office after Chinese New Year and marked my first proper experience of giving out lai see or red packets. Lai see are a monetary gift, traditionally presented at social and family gatherings, such as weddings, or on holidays such as the CNY. The red color of the envelope symbolizes good luck and is supposed to ward off evil spirits (my lai see weren't actually red, oh well).
In Hong Kong, it is traditional after CNY to give people subordinate to you a red packet on your first day back in the office. I had been warned about this and arrived at work prepared with a special lai see for my secretary and thirty red packets for other staff I work with (more than enough I thought). What I had not been warned about were the hordes of marauding staff that seek you out at your desk in packs to collect their lai see. I ended the day with only two lai see left! I will be more prepared next year.
To ensure a lucky start to the year, the office had arranged for a 舞獅 or Lion dance. The lion dance is performed to exorcise evil spirits and to summon luck and fortune. The performance began with the Hoi Gong or eye dotting, which is a traditional ceremony to bless and awaken the spirit of the lion. Two of our senior partners were invited to open the eyes of the lions by dotting the lion with red ink. The dotting was carried out to the soft beat of a drum, but once the dotting was completed the drums, gong and cymbal all broke into life and the lions began their dance.
The next part of the dance involved 採青 or picking the greens. Traditionally a lai see is tied to a head of lettuce and hung from the front door of the business. Since our office doesn't have a front door, the head of lettuce was hung in the lift foyer. As part of the dance, the lions consumed the lettuce and then showered the audience with streamers (which I think is meant to represent the lettuce leaves).
The lion dance then moved around our floor. A lion would stop at any desk that had a red packets hanging above it to consume the red packets and grant luck to the area (and if you ask nicely even stop for a photo). The office was quite a sight with red packets hanging above everyone's desks. Below is a picture of the lion providing a bit of luck to my desk.