They say you can take the woman out of Hong Kong, but you can’t take the Hong Kong out of the woman. I discovered this first-hand in 2019, when @hangrywifey was super excited about celebrating the holiday. We attempted to discover various events surrounding the Chinese New Year holiday here in Porto. It didn’t go well.
First of all, the majority of the Chinese community in Porto are Mainland Chinese who immigrated to Portugal and established their businesses and way of living. As such, most speak fluent Portuguese and run businesses typical of first-generation immigrants: souvenir shops, Asian markets, Chinese restaurants, etc. The community is primarily insular, so you don’t see a lot of interaction. Of course, our hope is that, as differing peoples from the Chinese diaspora arrive in Porto, that a deeper community may form, with more community celebrations taking place.
Flash forward to CNY 2020. @hangrywifey was on fire, leading a shopping trip to El Corte Inglés (the swanky department store of choice in both Portugal/Spain), sourcing flowers from local florists, discovering ingredients from both the Chinese supermercado and local frutaria, and preparing dish after dish after dish, ensuring that our CNY away from home would be as authentic as possible.
It seems that, for the time being, the best (and only way) for Chinese people to celebrate CNY in Porto is to simply DIY. All the elements are possible, and the growing number of Chinese in the city (from Malaysia and Hong Kong, so far. If there are Taiwanese or Singaporeans in the city, we have not yet met them) means that more people will be celebrating it. It deserves to be celebrated, especially as a number of Chinese already here don’t necessarily even take time off to celebrate! For example, our local Chinese supermarket will stay open for regular hours throughout the entire holiday. We don’t get it.
Getting into the spirit was a bit different this year. In fact, the most exciting part about our CNY celebration was the inclusion of a mixture of cultures. From the Singaporean tradition, we mixed Lo Hei. Japanese snacks and shochu were incorporated. We included various charcuterie, olives and cheeses from Portugal/Spain. Our Hong Kong influence was a no-brainer in deciding to enjoy a marvellous hotpot dinner. And of course, no CNY would be complete without a round of Mahjong.
For those moving to Portugal, you could choose to be frustrated by the lack of CNY festivities, or you could just dig in, enlarge your community and make your own new traditions. The choice is really up to you. Kung Hei Fat Choi!