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Celebrating Chinese New Year in Hong Kong from Day 1 to 15
Chinese New Year (CNY) is one of the most important festivals in Hong Kong for it is a time to be with family and turn over a new leaf. Over the years, the city has developed its own set of rituals, such as visiting relatives, receiving lai see (red packets) and giving each other blessings. This year, the festivities will last for 15 days from 22 January to 5 February 2023. Let’s celebrate the start of the Year of the Rabbit the Hong Kong way with these traditional activities!
Days preceding the New Year: boost your luck at flower markets
Shopping at flower markets is a must for locals during Chinese New Year. It usually starts running seven days before New Year’s Day and ends at midnight the day of Chinese New Year. There are flower markets all over Hong Kong, but the one at Victoria Park is the most iconic and biggest with more than 100 stalls. Here, you can find everything you need for CNY: auspicious flowers and fruit, fun gadgets and lifestyle goods, and popular New Year’s snacks. Not in the mood for shopping? It’s still a memorable experience just walking around the market soaking up the vibrancy of the festival.
*Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, flower markets will not provide dry goods stalls or food this year.
What are New Year flowers?
New Year flowers are plants that people use to decorate their homes during Chinese New Year. They often carry auspicious meanings. Gladiolus and narcissus, for example, are symbols of strength and purity, while lucky bamboo, peonies, and silver willows are believed to bring wealth and luck. The most popular choice, however, is peach blossom.
Legend has it that if you walk clockwise around a peach blossom tree three times, you will find love. If a petal falls on you, it means you may even find a lifelong partner. Your relationship will grow stronger if you walk with your lover around the tree.
19 January to 5 February: follow the lucky rabbits at the Victoria Harbour
Let’s hop on for a prosperous Year of the Rabbit in Hong Kong! Celebrate this Chinese New Year with adorable rabbit installations on both sides of the Victoria Harbour. Follow these lucky rabbits to the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Viewing Deck for a glimmering light performance, then take the ferry across the harbour to Tamar Park to get lost in a sea of flowers, and snap some incredible photos along the Rainbow Walk on Wan Chai’s waterfront. Don’t miss the giant rabbit peeking out from Central Pier’s roof! Afterwards, you can enjoy the panoramic harbour views on a boat ride, such as the Star Ferry, Harbour FUN Pedal Boat and Walla-Walla Motorboat.
Date: 19 January – 5 February 2023 Opening hours:
Hong Kong Cultural Centre Viewing Deck, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon: 7am–11pm
Other venues: 10am–10pm
Chinese New Year’s Eve: offer the first incense stick at the Wong Tai Sin Temple
The first incense offering is a Chinese tradition that takes place every Chinese New Year. Worshippers believe it carries the greatest merit, which brings maximum protection against all calamities. In Hong Kong, the event at the Wong Tai Sin Temple is the most sought after, and some worshippers would even dress up for the occasion.
What can be considered as Chinese New Year food?
Chinese New Year has its own traditional foods, just like any other festivals. The names of these treats usually carry auspicious meanings. For example, Chinese New Year pudding and radish cake are consumed a lot because ‘gou’ sounds like ‘higher’ in Cantonese, which means getting a better job, better grade or a growth spurt. Another example would be tangerines. The Chinese word for the fruit sounds similar to the word ‘luck’. The chuen hap, a Chinese New Year snack box, also has sweet treats such as candied lotus seed and winter melon, which are symbolic of a sweet year ahead.
Second day of Chinese New Year: spin the fortune pinwheel at the Che Kung Festival
Che Kung was said to be a great general who visited Hong Kong and stationed in Sai Kung in the Song dynasty. Legend has it that during an epidemic outbreak in Sha Tin at the end of the Ming dynasty, the villagers had learnt from historical writings that epidemics were cleared wherever Che Kung set foot in, so they built a temple to honour him. This legendary hero’s birthday happens to fall on the second day of Chinese New Year, so many worshippers visit the temple to turn the fan-bladed wheel of fortune to wish for good luck in the coming year. Take home a pinwheel to bring the blessings along with you!
What makes the Che Kung Temple so busy on the third day of Chinese New Year?
Although the Che Kung Festival is on the second day of Chinese New Year, most people visit the temple on the third day, which is traditionally believed to be a day where one would easily misspeak or offend others. To avoid trouble and quarrels, people would rather pay their respects at the temple for better luck instead of visiting relatives. Read more about Chinese New Year etiquettes and traditions here.
Third day of Chinese New Year: try your luck on Raceday
There’s nothing like an auspicious start to the new year at the Sha Tin Racecourse, as it is one of the biggest days on the racing calendar. In addition to thrilling races on the track, crowds attend the event for a variety of festivities, including cultural and entertainment performances. These festivities are intended to bring good luck and fortune for the new year.
When do shops reopen after the public holiday?
From New Year’s Day to the third day of Chinese New Year, many shops will be closed. Tradition holds that businesses shouldn’t reopen until the fifth day. Hong Kong, however, is a vibrant city where many shops remain open all year round, so you can still get a taste of the joyous holiday whenever you visit.
Throughout Chinese New Year: make a wish at the Lam Tsuen Wishing Tree
During Chinese New Year, wish-makers flock to Lam Tsuen for the Wishing Tree. Visitors can write their wishes on a paper scroll, tie them with weights, and then toss them up the tree. If it doesn’t fall, it means your wish will come true. To protect the century-old tree, however, an artificial tree now stands in its place, and oranges, instead of rocks, are used as weights.
When can I open my lai see?
There’s a saying that the most ideal day to open lai see is on the seventh day of Chinese New Year, also known as ‘everyone’s birthday’. But some say it’s best to wait until the 15th day as it means accumulating wealth for the rest of the year.
Final day of Chinese New Year: celebrate the Lantern Festival with your loved ones
The Lantern Festival, also known as the Chinese Valentine’s Day, falls on the 15th day of Chinese New Year (5 February 2023). This is when families gather to eat glutinous rice balls, which symbolise togetherness. When the first full moon of a new year rolls around, it’s customary to watch the lanterns lit and play riddle games with loved ones, marking the end of the CNY celebrations in Hong Kong in the perfect way.