A breath of good luck

A breath of good luck


Wong Yat-hei talks to Tracy Pang about a life spent at the heart of a colourful Lunar New Year tradition

Tracy Pang Oi-heung has spent most of her life in the windmill business - traditional Lunar New Year good luck charms - and is still selling them today.

Born in a squatter area near Wong Tai Sin, Pang grew up helping her mother make windmills when she was a child. Today she owns a windmill store at the busy Wong Tai Sin Temple.

Back in the 50s and 60s, it was common for low-income families to make handicrafts and other low-tech products at home to earn extra money. Pang's mother learned to make windmills from the neighbours and started a little factory at home.

Pang recalls helping out with the family business after school.

'Making windmills was not as easy as people thought,' says Pang.

'It was physically demanding. The wires that supported the decorations had to be twisted with your bare hands, and your fingers became covered in a thick layer of glue from pasting decorations onto the windmills.'

In the windmill's heyday it was an extremely competitive business. Sellers sold their products from hawker stalls.

'My family and I had to fight very hard for spots, but we had 10 stalls at Wong Tai Sin Temple and each family member looked after a stall,' says Pang, recalling the golden days of her family business.

'Today, due to government regulations, windmills can only be sold in shops and can no longer have a space at the temple.'

Many things have changed in Hong Kong, but people still buy windmills for good luck at Lunar New Year.

'Many parents bring their children to shop for windmills. It's a tradition that's passed on from generation to generation.'

The design of the windmill has not changed over the years, but the way it's made differs.

'Windmills today still have images of gods, dragons, peacocks and are mainly made from rattan and paper and wires, so not much has changed,' says Pang.

'The only difference is they are produced by machines and not by hand. Plastic windmills with cartoon characters have also appeared in recent years, but those are just fun toys for children. Most people still go for traditional windmills.'

And the windmills are no longer made in Hong Kong.

'Production costs are just too high,' says Pan, who calls the manufacturing shift to the mainland 'natural'.

She says the future is uncertain.

'My son is definitely not interested in taking over the business and I don't blame him. Why would a well-educated man with a college degree do something like this?'

Hollywood Plaza at Diamond Hill is hosting a windmill exhibition from January 31 to February 28



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