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Hong Kong Cultural Celebrations
One season, four festivals, hundreds of performers, thousands of years of tradition, hundreds of thousands of incense sticks, and who knows how many buns! Witness the timeless, intangible culture of Hong Kong in four festivals every spring.
Behind this modern and cosmopolitan city, rousing gongs and drums, colourful parades, ancient rituals and bizarre customs signal a celebration of its ancient Chinese past, with the birthdays of Tin Hau, Buddha and Tam Kung, plus the Cheung Chau Bun Festival.
Experience the energy, tradition and passion that are the very soul of contemporary Hong Kong.
- 22 April to 7 May 2014
Tin Hau’s Birthday falls on the 23rd day of the third lunar month. You can find the Western calendar date here.
Hong Kong’s maritime heritage ensures that Tin Hau, Goddess of the Sea and patron saint of fishermen, has a strong and loyal following here. On her birthday, locals flock to the more than 70 temples dedicated to her in Hong Kong to pray for safety, security, fine weather and full fishing nets during the coming year. So enduring is the reverence for Tin Hau in Hong Kong that this festival is even celebrated by many young people who are more likely to catch a fish in a seafood restaurant than on a trawler.
In Shap Pat Heung in Yuen Long, there is a colourful parade of fa pau (floral wreaths), lion dances and a fa pau raffle. There are also festivities in Sai Kung, where a brightly decorated procession of fishing boats makes its way to the city’s oldest Tin Hau Temple.
- 22 April 2014
The Cheung Chau Bun Festival falls on the fifth to the ninth days of the fourth lunar month. You can find the Western calendar date here.
Every year, the people of Cheung Chau get busy making papier-mâché effigies of deities, preparing costumes, baking buns and building a bamboo tower. They’re preparing for the thousands of people that will soon descend upon their tiny island for what Time.com deemed one of the world's 'Top 10 Quirky Local Festivals'.
It all started with a plague that devastated Cheung Chau in the late Qing dynasty (1644–1911). The islanders built an altar in front of the Pak Tai Temple and petitioned the god Pak Tai to drive off the evil spirits besieging the island, while parading statues of deities through the narrow lanes of their village. The plague ended after the performance of these Taoist rituals and 100 years later the rituals are still performed in a festival that is listed as an intangible part of China’s cultural heritage.
For the locals, this is the continuation of their customs. The islanders have a strong sense of community and those who have left to work elsewhere will return for this celebration. For the thousands who crowd the ferry boats to the erstwhile pirate haven, this is the spectacular Cheung Chau Bun Festival. The weeklong event includes Taoist ceremonies and music, a parade, lion dances, drum beating and an exciting Bun Scrambling Competition involving a tower of buns.
- 3-7 May 2014
Festival Activities at a Glance
*Complimentary admission tickets will be distributed at Pak She First Lane next to Pak Tai Temple beginning at 10pm, while stocks last.
Buddha’s Birthday falls on the eighth day of the fourth lunar month. You can find the Western calendar date here.
The Birthday of the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama), the founder of Buddhism, also called the Buddha Bathing Festival, is one of the most spiritual and unique festivals celebrated in Hong Kong.
According to legend, nine dragons sprayed water to bathe the baby Buddha at birth. To commemorate this, at Buddhist temples across the city, devotees gather to pay their respects to this revered deity by bathing statues of him in bowls of water. The ritual is believed to aid in the purification of one’s soul. One of the grandest ceremonies is held at the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island, home of the Big Buddha.
Before and after the Birthday of Buddha, celebrants also eat special green cookies – and if these sound unappetising, that’s because they are. These cookies are deliberately quite bitter, as eating them represents passing through hardship to enjoy better things.
- 6 May 2014
Tam Kung’s Birthday falls on the eighth day of the fourth lunar month. You can find the Western calendar date here.
Like Tin Hau, the Goddess of the Sea, Tam Kung is revered amongst fishermen and coastal communities; however, the worship of this deity is unique to Hong Kong. Born in the Huizhou prefecture in Guangdong Province during the Yuan dynasty (1206-1368), Tam Kung was capable of forecasting the weather and healing the ill when he was a child. His statue is usually portrayed as an 80-year-old man with the face of a 12-year-old child because he is believed to have achieved wisdom at a young age and learned the secret of remaining forever young.
- 6 May 2014