Good Pig, Bad Pig

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During Chinese New Year, Hong Kong does its best impersonation of a ghost town. Stores close, newspapers halt publishing and passengers can get a seat on the subway with ease. That’s not to say the city’s bustle disappears completely. More like its transferred to all things related to the New Year, like the Victoria Park flower market, the Tsim Sha Tsui night parade and the harbor fireworks display. They all attract crowds that can try even the most patient visitor. A colleague reported seeing a parent use a young child as a battering ram to move through the flower market throngs this weekend, and after witnessing the masses last year I find that entirely acceptable behavior. The kid might disagree.

One of the main New Year’s preoccupations is predicting what the next 12 months will be like. And that requires knowing just what year this is. In advertising and the press this has been widely called the Year of the Golden Pig. But the South China Morning Post ran a story recently stating that this will be the much less auspicious Year of the Fire Pig. The Golden Pig tale is likely the result of “commercial hype,” the story said, with shopkeepers and restaurateurs using the holiday to promote sales. The hype has continued unabated over the past week, so I called Edwin Ma, a Hong Kong astrologer, to check. He said this is indeed the year of the Fire Pig. “This is not the Golden Pig,” he says. “I don’t know why they make this out to be the Golden Pig.” Perhaps because it has to do with money. “The Golden Pig is the good pig. The Golden Pig is defined by wealth and a lot of money. You can collect money,” he says. “The Fire Pig is no good. The Fire Pig will burn everything. They are the opposite.” For those waiting for the Golden Pig, hope is only 24 years away, in 2031.