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Hong Kong Travel Guide - with Wired Destinations
Hong Kong Festivals and Holidays – with Wired Destinations
Hong Kong has a year-round calendar of exciting traditional Hong Kong festivals, some of them also public holidays. Most of these are based on dates in the lunar calendar and therefore the dates vary from year to year by up to a few weeks.
Hong Kong Lunar New Year
This is the single most important Chinese festival of the year, a time for visiting friends and relatives (often in mainland China). For Hong Kong's expatriate residents, it's a time to take a break. There are various things to see during the Lunar New Year. The highlight is the fireworks display, when Victoria Harbor lights up in a multi-million dollar pyrotechnic extravaganza. There is also a lively Flower Market in Victoria Park. In recent years, the Hong Kong Tourism Board has organized a New Year Parade in Central, which is amusing if stopping short of being dazzling.
Much more important to the pragmatic Hong Kong Chinese, Lunar New Year is a time of year when debts should be cleared. It is also a bad time for employers – staff are paid an annual bonus of at least one month's salary, and if they have performed well, they expect to receive more. People greet one another with kung hei fat choi, which is a wish for good fortune and prosperity. In return for the greeting, they expect to receive little red packets with lai see (lucky money) inside.
Shops traditionally close at Lunar New Year, but increasingly many of the larger ones stay open to attract extra trade.
Hong Kong Spring Lantern Festival (Yuen Siu)
This is popularly referred to as the Chinese Valentine's Day. It is held on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year and involves the hanging of colorful traditional lanterns in homes, restaurants and temples.
Birthday of Tin Hau
Since fishing and the sea have a special place in Hong Kong's history, Tin Hau – the goddess of the sea – has a special importance, particularly among the fishing communities. Fishermen decorate their boats in bright colors and flock to the Tin Hau temples around the territory to pray for a good catch in the coming year. The best places to join the homage to Tin Hau are at the Tin Hau Temple in Aberdeen and in the New Territories town of Yuen Long, where there is a parade with lion dancers and floats.
Hong Kong Cheung Chau Bun Festival
The tiny outlying island of Cheung Chau is the only place in the world to hold a bun festival. Towering piles of sweet buns intermingled with effigies of gods are stacked up in the grounds of the Pak Tai temple. Figures in historical costumes parade on stilts or ride on floats across the island.
Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival (Yuen Ng)
It is said that the national hero Qu Yuan drowned himself over 2,000 years ago in protest against a corrupt government. Legend has it that while people tried to rescue him, they beat drums to scare the fish away and stop them from eating his body. In these enlightened times (thanks to a few decades of intervention from Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption) such dramatic protests are no longer necessary and this event is purely a festival. To symbolize the ancient rescue attempts, elaborately decorated dragon boats race to the beat of loud drums. International dragon-boat races with competing national teams are held the week following the festival.
Hong Kong Mid-Autumn Festival
If there's one festival in the year you should make an effort to see, this is it. Paper lanterns, in all shapes and sizes, are illuminated and taken out to public parks and high places. Many people go to Victoria Park, and it is a very beautiful sight to watch the throngs with their illuminated lanterns. At this time of the year, people also eat special sweet cakes known as mooncakes, which are made of ground lotus and sesame seeds. They are definitely an acquired taste but all part of the fun.
Hong Kong Public Holidays
The fact that many Hong Kong residents work a five-and-a-half day week and have short periods of annual leave is compensated by a relatively large number of public holidays every year – 17 in total. These are as follows:
1 January: New Year's Day
January/February: Lunar New Year (three-day holiday)
April: Ching Ming Festival Good Friday and Easter Monday
May/June: Dragon Boat Festival; Buddha's Birthday (May 11); Labor Day (May 1)
1 July: SAR Establishment Day
September/October: The day following Mid-Autumn Festival
1 October: National Day (2 days)
October: Chung Yeung Festival
25 December: Christmas (2 days)
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