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How locals celebrate Chinese New Year in Hong Kong

LUXE City Guides
  • Written by LUXE City Guides
Girl with CNY décor

With its elaborate banquets and glittering illuminations, Chinese New Year is a highlight of the Hong Kong calendar. Symbolising prosperity and unity, while invoking good fortune for the year ahead, the spring festival is cherished and celebrated by locals across the city as they exchange blessings and good wishes. 

In the weeks leading up to the event, Hong Kong is abuzz with activity as people prep for the holiday by cleaning and decorating their homes and offices, stuffing lai see envelopes with lucky money and arranging the all-important reunion dinners. We chat to four Hongkongers about their Chinese New Year rituals.

Attract good fortune in the Year of the Ox with these authentic Cantonese greetings from Derek Mackesy.

Family reunions and temple visits

For Cyrus Lam, a buyer at a local department store, the true essence of Chinese New Year is the family reunion, “no matter how busy or how far away, the whole family will try their best to get together, give each other blessings, and welcome a brand new start,” she says. Another tradition practiced by Cyrus and her family is visiting Wong Tai Sin Temple or Che Kung Temple , which offer auspicious blessings.

Cyrus’ CNY tip: plan your trip in advance to avoid peak times and be sure to follow the special arrangements in place to ensure your visit is safe as well as auspicious.

Kwok’s Kung Fu & Dragon Lion Dance Team

Photo credit to: Kwok’s Kung Fu & Dragon Lion Dance Team

Lion dancing and lai see

While for many the Lunar New Year symbolises a time of celebrating unity and family bonds, for others it’s also their commercial peak. For Master Kwok Man-Lung, martial arts expert, coach and leader of Kwok’s Kung Fu & Dragon Lion Dance Team, the New Year is his busiest period, when a packed schedule of performances earns income to cover the forthcoming year’s expenses.

As a child, the young Master Kwok enjoyed doing the rounds of relatives and receiving lai see, and for him the “tuen nin dinner (reunion dinner) was important for family bonding”. As a dragon and lion dance master, he swapped these domestic rituals for performances in different shopping malls across the city.

Master Kwok’s CNY tip: look — and listen — out for lion dances around the city for a burst of CNY energy.

Dim sum

A New Year peak

Growing up in Taiwan, teakha Get me there {{title}} {{taRatingReviewTotal}} {{taRatingReviewText}} Address {{address}} Website {{website}} More info founder Nana Chan loved Chinese New Year as “a festival filled with sparkling firecrackers and traditional customs like wearing red clothes, cleansing oneself and avoiding unlucky words that were believed to drive away good fortune,” she smiles. Nana’s family placed great importance on even the smallest traditions; if someone carelessly uttered the wrong phrase, they’d be admonished with a gentle pat on the face.

When in Hong Kong for Chinese New Year, Nana will help with all the shopping and preparations for the sumptuous reunion dinner. But it’s not all indoor activities, another ritual for Nana is to fuel up on dim sum at Duen Kee Chinese Restaurant in Tsuen Wan then hike up Hong Kong’s tallest mountain, Tai Mo Shan. “I like to climb to the peak on the first morning of every Lunar New Year,” the active tea connoisseur says.

Nana’s CNY tip: go to Chi Lin Nunnery and try the vegetarian dim sum — it’s delicious.

Lai see

Auspicious rituals for a fresh start

Like any teenager, Addison eagerly awaits Chinese New Year and sees it as the perfect occasion “to celebrate love, friendships and all the good things in life.” Addison’s family engage in numerous rituals throughout the festive period including visits to the flower markets and buying orchids, ceremonial nin-ya-baat cleansing, eating sticky rice dumplings and receiving lai see from family, not to mention refreshing hikes along the trails around Tai Tam Reservoir.

Addison’s CNY tip: discover the city’s street art in Central and Sheung Wan and, for some authentic tastes, consider booking the buffet featuring Chinese dishes like poon choi (big bowl).

Information in this article is subject to change without advance notice. Please contact the relevant product or service providers for enquiries.

The Hong Kong Tourism Board disclaims any liability as to the quality or fitness for purpose of third party products and services; and makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy, adequacy or reliability of any information contained herein.

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