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Celebrate in Hong Kong with these time-honoured festivities

Hong Kong Traditional Celebration Throughout the Year

International and modern as it may be, Hong Kong has never lost touch with its traditions, and you too can get a taste of the city’s customs no matter when your visit is planned. With Chinese festivals celebrated throughout the year, this is how fun-loving Hongkongers keep their heritage alive. 

Chinese New Year

For the ultimate winter celebration, pop by Hong Kong for Chinese New Year as the city celebrates its most important festival in addition to the Birthday of Che Kung and the vivid Spring Lantern Festival. During Chinese New Year, you will see children and adults dressed head to toe in all shades of red, greeting everyone from their neighbours to shopkeepers with auspicious wishes. Shrouded in an air of excitement, the streets are decked out in gold lanterns and motifs of the animal of the year, and markets are filled to the brim with auspicious food. While family celebrations tend to stay traditional, the city-wide festivities are given a uniquely Hong Kong spin, with a carnival, horse racing, visits to Lam Tsuen Wishing Tree and fireworks sparkling above brilliant Victoria Harbour.

Hung Shing Festival

Hung Shing Festival

Spring brings a series of birthday celebrations for the beloved deities worshipped by generations of Hongkongers, led by Hung Shing Festival. 

 

Like many of the gods worshipped in Hong Kong, Hung Shing was a historical figure who was later deified. The man behind the immortal was Hung Hei, who served as governor of Panyu in Guangdong province during the Tang dynasty (618–907). A respected astronomer and geographer who helped forecast the weather for fishermen and merchants, Hung Shing Festival is marked in Hong Kong mostly by fishermen. Celebrations include Chinese opera, processions and more, taking place at the 800-year-old village of Ho Sheung Heung in the New Territories and the more than 240-year-old Hung Shing Temple at Ap Lei Chau .

Birthday of Tin Hau

Birthday of Tin Hau 

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 in the city dedicated to her to pray for safety, security, fine weather and full fishing nets during the coming year. So enduring is the reverence for Tin Hau that this festival is even celebrated by many young people who are more likely to see a fish in a restaurant than on a trawler. Check out the three-hour parade in Yuen Long as well as festivities at Tin Hau Temple in Joss House Bay, the oldest in Hong Kong.

Birthday of Buddha

Photo Credit: So Shing Yan

Birthday of Buddha 

One of the most spiritual and unique festivals in Hong Kong is the Birthday of the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, also known as Sakyamuni), a celebration that's also called the Buddha Bathing Festival.

 

According to legend, nine dragons sprayed water to bathe the baby Buddha at birth. Thus, on his birthday, devotees gather at Buddhist temples to bathe statues of him, in a ritual that is believed to aid in the purification of one’s soul. One of the grandest ceremonies is held at the Po Lin Monastery Get me there {{title}} {{taRatingLabel}} Address {{address}} Website {{website}} More info on Lantau Island, home of the Big Buddha.

 

Before and after the Birthday of Buddha, celebrants also eat bitter, green cookies which represents passing through hardship to enjoy better things.

 

[ Remarks: The Big Buddha is currently undergoing renovations and the areas in the vicinity of the Big Buddha statue will be closed during the maintenance period. All other religious ceremonies and events will continue as usual, please check the official website before you visit. ]

Birthday of Tam Kung

Birthday of Tam Kung

Tam Kung is revered amongst fishermen and coastal communities, and worshipped uniquely in Hong Kong. Born in Huizhou prefecture in Guangdong province during the Yuan dynasty (1206–1368), Tam Kung was said to be capable of forecasting the weather and healing the ill when he was a child. He 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.

 

Catch the lion dances and a street parade at the oldest and most celebrated Tam Kung Temple in Shau Kei Wan, built in 1905 and reconstructed in 2002 with the original design carefully preserved. 

Cheung Chau Bun Festival

Cheung Chau Bun Festival

One of the city’s most spectacular festivals marks the end of spring, when thousands of visitors ferry over to the tiny, serene island for the Cheung Chau Bun Festival. Comprising the piu sik parade with children dressed up as deities paraded on stilts, lion dances, Taoist festivals and the exciting Bun Scrambling Competition, the festivities are on China’s national list of intangible cultural heritage. Everything from the buns to the 14-metre-tall bamboo towers are prepared by the local community, so this is a uniquely Hong Kong festival through and through.

Dragon Boat Festival

Dragon Boat Festival 

Summer in Hong Kong kicks off with the Insta-worthy Dragon Boat Festival. Celebrated all over China, the festival commemorates Qu Yuan, a Chinese national hero who drowned himself in protest against corrupt rulers. The Hong Kong version has the added benefit of being set against the beautiful Victoria Harbour skyline, as colourful dragon boats slice through the harbour in a race between international paddlers at the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Carnival. Don’t miss the picturesque Dragon Boat Water Parade of Tai O, where deity statues are put on sacred sampans and towed by the dragon boats in a parade through the waters of Tai O to pacify the wandering water ghosts.

Hungry Ghost Festival

According to traditional Chinese belief, the seventh month in the lunar calendar is when restless spirits roam the earth and the living celebrate Yu Lan or the Hungry Ghost Festival. While the festival’s origins are not unlike those of Halloween in Europe, it is also intrinsically linked to the Chinese practise of ancestor worship. A celebration of the culture, the Hong Kong Chiu Chow Community’s Yu Lan Ghost Festival is on China’s national list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. For the visitor, it’s a perfect opportunity to see some of the city’s living culture in action, with many people tending roadside fires and burning faux money and other offerings for ghosts and ancestors to use in the afterlife. Food is also left out to sate the appetite of the hungry ghosts. There will also be Chinese opera performances around town, usually held on temporary bamboo stages, to praise the charitable and pious deeds of the deities. 

Mid-Autumn Festival

Mid-Autumn Festival 

As the round shape symbolises unity in Chinese culture, the full moon marks the perfect time for families to get together, which is how Mid-Autumn Festival has been celebrated since the early Tang dynasty (618–907). To many, this is considered to be one of the most important festivals of the year. Highly urbanised Hong Kong still celebrates this holiday and does so in style, with a vast variety of mooncakes made with everything from salted egg yolk to ice cream. For those looking for a visual extravaganza, head to Tai Hang for the spectacular fire dragon dance, and keep an eye out for lantern displays around the city.

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