In zinging Hong Kong style, the territory offers some of the most vibrant Chinese New Year celebrations that are easy for visitors to get involved in. Here’s how best to celebrate Chinese New Year in Hong Kong and ensure good fortune for the year ahead. Kung hei fat choy!
Catch the Chinese New Year parade
Busy entertainment district Tsim Sha Tsui goes all out for Chinese New Year, covering every shopping centre and street in tinselly red baubles, paper cuts and pillar-box red lanterns. It’s on these buzzy shopping avenues that the Chinese New Year Night Parade takes place on the evening of Chinese New Year (from 6pm, 16 February 2018), with blinging floats and street performers marching through the streets to a loud Chinese drum beat.
Watch out for the much-loved traditional lion dance, where performers (usually trained martial artists) mimic the animal’s movements, using a fluffy puppet lion’s head and body, for good fortune.
Watch the Chinese New Year fireworks
In typical extravagant Hong Kong style, the free fireworks display over Victoria Harbour (8pm, 17 February 2018) is the annual highlight of the Chinese New Year calendar. The 25-minute display coincides with the musical Symphony of Lights performance, which was revamped at the end of 2017 to include more buildings and more lasers.
Grab a front-row firework seat on the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade in Kowloon, the Western District harbourfront in Sai Ying Pun or in Wan Chai’s Golden Bauhinia Sq. And don’t panic if you notice any particularly loud bits. It’s all part of the plan to scare away evil spirits for the upcoming year.
Shop at the Victoria Park Flower Market
Hong Kong Island’s biggest public park, Victoria Park amplifies its flower power in the run-up to the Chinese New Year period (10-16 February 2018). Join thousands of other Hongkongers who are buying auspicious flowers and plants with which to decorate their homes during the spring festival.
What to buy? An orchid makes a beautiful gift (and a Confucian one – the Chinese philosopher was known to be partial to these flowers). Other festive flowers include water lilies (the flowers bloom around this time of year and they’re said to be lucky) or the unusual-looking kumquat and tangerine trees. Twisty bamboo shoots and cherry blossom branches are considered auspicious – and they look pretty. If you’re in Kowloon, the Fa Hui Park flower market in Sham Shui Po is another place to score some lucky blossoms.
Visit Wong Tai Sin Temple
Kowloon’s Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple is one of Hong Kong’s biggest, busiest and most atmospheric temples, buried right in the middle of a residential housing estate. It commemorates a fourth-century Chinese monk that became a deity. Today, the temple is known for granting wishes (now you understand why it’s so busy!).
Chinese New Year is a particularly popular time to visit Wong Tai Sin, whether that’s to quietly pray or to loudly shake bamboo sticks that are then read by a fortune teller. Around 100,000 visitors usually descend on the temple during the holiday. Regardless of any wishes you want to make, it’s worth a visit to see its richly decorated setting and smell the pungent incense swirling in the air.
Eat auspicious foods
In a city that takes its cuisine seriously, it’s no surprise that food is the cornerstone of Hong Kong’s Chinese New Year celebrations.
There are a number of ‘lucky’ dishes eaten during the festival, so-named because their pronunciation sounds like something prosperous in Cantonese. For example, the humble lettuce (sang choi) is often eaten (and ‘fed’ to the lions during the lion dance) because it sounds similar to the phrase ‘growing wealth’. The pronunciation of oysters (ho see) sounds like ‘good business’; sticky rice cake, a Chinese New Year food that’s been eaten for over a millennia, sounds like ‘year high’. Then there’s yee sang, a tossed raw-fish salad whose name is homophonous with abundance, and of course, black moss fungus – fat choi – is favoured during Chinese New Year because it sounds like ‘prosperity’ (this may sound familiar from the traditional new year greeting kung hei fat choy).
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