Fortune favors the brave in big chill
by Kenneth Foo
Hongkongers shivered through the coldest Lunar New Year holiday in 16 years, with the mercury plunging to seven degrees Celsius in urban areas yesterday and going under three degrees in Ngong Ping on Lantau.
The third day of the Year of the Water Dragon brought frost to high places in the Northern New Territories and a chilling 5.6 degrees outdoors for residents.
The Hong Kong Observatory said it was the coldest Lunar New Year holiday since 1996 and that the cold snap will continue for a few days, though it will be slightly warmer at the weekend.
Hong Kong Union Hospital said 13 people were admitted to its accident and emergency ward with hypothermia over the past two days.
The Home Affairs Department opened temporary shelters throughout the territory last night.
But the cold snap failed to stop thousands of worshippers from flocking to Che Kung temple in Sha Tin in search of luck, fortune and blessings.
Businessman Ronnie Loh Kim-sum was one of them, taking his wife and three children along.
“Year after year, I come to pray for my family’s health as no amount of money or power can buy you good health,” said Loh.
Teacher Amy Ko Kin-yam said she prayed for the recovery of her father, who suffered a stroke last year and is bedridden.
Most worshippers stuck to plan – drawing fortune sticks carrying inscribed numbers, a traditional Taoist practice that is said to predict one’s fortune in the year ahead.
Property agent Lee Soon-fai was told he would have a
“sudden windfall” shortly after his 36th birthday this year.
On Tuesday, Heung Yee Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat drew, on behalf of the people of Hong Kong, “average” stick number 29.
A fortune stick reader said Hong Kong faces problems in the year ahead, but if they are resolved, the rewards can be great.
Renowned fortune-teller James Lee Shing-chak said the stick indicates Hong Kong will see a lot of falsehood and gossip this year.
Meanwhile, many vendors at the Che Kung Festival Fair said the many patches of drizzle and biting cold hit profits, forcing business down by 20 to 30 percent and sending many of them home early.