Hong Kong embraces a hybrid of cultures with both the Chinese and Western festivals the locals enjoy celebrating in their own ways. As a tourist, you are more than welcome to join the festive activities and relish the fun with the locals so read on to find out all that is celebrated in Hong Kong and how.
Lunar New Year
The Chinese New Year is definitely one of the biggest festivals in Hong Kong, spanning up to two weeks in celebrations in the city.
Distribution of Red Packets
Lai see (also known as red packet) is a red envelope with money of varying amounts that sends an auspicious message to the recipient. Conventionally, married couples give lai see to single people but this custom has changed a bit that even married couples can receive lai see from older family members. While the amount of money put in depends on the giver, it is not appropriate to open lai see in front of the givers out of courtesy. In fact, in Hong Kong, lai see are not only distributed during Lunar New Year but also in other joyful occasions like weddings and birthdays.
Lunar New Year Flower Market
Starting from approximately one week before Lunar New Year, there are fairs and markets buzzing in big parks that conventionally sell colourful flowers and festive snacks. Nowadays, the variety of items on display expands to creative gadgets and artistic products. All flower markets end at midnight of the first day of Lunar New Year.
Family Reunion Dinner
Traditionally, the Dinner is held on Lunar New Year’s Eve on which all family members gather to celebrate the festival. Dishes are prepared with ingredients that carry auspicious names such as dried oysters (the name in Cantonese means “a bull market”) and fat choy meaning “good fortune”.
What to Do:
Go to one of the Flower Markets for a shopping spree! While it probably won’t be wise to buy fresh flowers as they cannot be kept for long, you can instead go for a myriad of other products as well as tasty, festive street snacks. Be sure to also watch the annual Chinese New Year Night Parade which features dazzling floats and performers from all over the world. On the second day of Lunar New Year, join the crowds to enjoy the fireworks over Victoria Harbour and enjoy the festive vibe.
Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month on which people celebrate the harvest and express gratitude to the God of Land.
Mooncakes are a symbol of Mid-Autumn Festival which is said to be originated from the late Yuan Dynasty when the Chinese revolution army put paper notes inside cakes to spread the secret message “overthrow the Mongolian dictators on the 15th of August”.
In Hong Kong, you can find a myriad of different types of mooncakes. While the traditional kind of mooncakes consist of lotus seed paste or red bean paste along with one or two yolk(s) of salted duck eggs as filling, snowy mooncakes are the modern twist. Snowy mooncakes replace the pastry with a “crust” made from glutinous rice that has a texture of mochi. Local bakeries have also invented a range of flavours such as tiramisu, cheese, and strawberry!
Appreciate the Full Moon
On the day of Mid-Autumn Festival, the moon becomes full again. As the full Moon symbolizes “reunion”, family members gather for a family dinner, appreciate the Moon, and share mooncakes together.
See the Lantern Displays
Another symbol of Mid-Autumn Festival is the lanterns. There are lantern displays and carnivals held in large parks. The traditional paper lanterns are illuminated with candles but present-day lanterns are illuminated and decorated with LED lights. While you can see many children and couples carrying along small lanterns, there are also large lanterns built by bamboo structures that shine like beacons in the dark. Every Mid-Autumn Festival, the lantern displays in Victoria Park attract big crowds that flood the venue to appreciate the sea of lights.
Fire Dragon Dance
The Fire Dragon Dance originated in Tai Hang Village when the villagers performed a dragon dance with fire to cast away a plague. The 67-meter-long dragon is made from straw and thousands of joss sticks, turning it into an eye-catching structure. Strong men have to be chosen to lift the dragon – just the dragon’s head alone weighs 48kg! The Fire Dragon Dance was added to the list of China’s Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2011.
What to Do:
Try both the traditional and snowy mooncakes to savor the taste welcomed by the locals for centuries. When evening arrives, buy a small lantern from any local shop and carry it while taking a stroll among the lantern display in Victoria Park. After that, take a 5-minute-walk to Tai Hang to witness the majestic Fire Dragon Dance to end this festive night.
The locals celebrate not only Chinese festivals but also Western festivals. Christmas is no doubt the most popular one in Hong Kong.
Like many countries in the world, Hong Kong attaches great importance in celebrating this global holiday.
Hong Kong WinterFest
The Hong Kong WinterFest features a number of celebratory activities. Watch the amazing “Hong Kong Pulse 3D Light Show” where dazzling light rays flash between both shores of Victoria Harbour. Also, Christmas lights are put up to adorn the skyscrapers along the Harbour, creating a joyful and vibrant scene. Tsim Sha Tsui is one of the best places to celebrate Christmas. There are lots of tourist attractions and you may prefer to stay in one of the Tsim Sha Tsui hotels nearby.
Christmas Tree at Statue Square
Every year, an enormous Christmas tree is erected at Statue Square in Central. The decorations on the tree changes each year – can you guess what it will be this year?
Stanley Christmas Market is one of the most popular ones, designed with a Christmassy tone and an array of local handcrafted artwork and freshly-prepared delicacies for sale. What’s more, Stanley is a seaside spot in Hong Kong Island, a perfect place to unwind after an afternoon at the Christmas Market.
New Year Countdown
After Christmas, get yourself in the Hong Kong New Year Countdown Celebrations. The Celebrations include a hybrid of firework and light shows when the clock strikes midnight.
There is truly so much to see and do during the myriad of different festivals in Hong Kong. Check the dates for the festivals you’re looking forward to and plan your next trip to the city!
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