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Spring Festival in Hong Kong

written by Traipsing Terra January 28, 2016

It’s that time of the year again, when the largest migration on the planet commences. No, I am not talking about a big game migration in Africa, but rather the mass migration of people around China for Spring Festival. I have been fortunate enough to spend the last two Spring Festivals in Hong Kong, and am a little sad to be missing it this year. Of course, one day I would love to spend Spring Festival with some of my Chinese friends in order to experience and learn more about the traditions. However, the festivities in Hong Kong can’t be beat.

I didn’t plan on being in Hong Kong for Spring Festival, it sort of just happened by chance. I had actually made plans to be in Bali, but then I was hired for a teaching position in China, and needed to get visa documents and a health check up as soon as possible. Hong Kong was the easiest place to go without having to fly in and out of China. I returned last year before moving to Japan, mostly because I enjoyed the festivities so much. I really wanted to celebrate the lunar New Year again. Had my visa been for a month longer, I would have enjoyed staying in Dali to experience a more rural celebration, but that didn’t work out this time.

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The city really comes alive during Spring Festival. There is so much to do and see during the two week holiday period. If you want even more entertainment, just take a ferry to Macau and partake in their festivities as well. One of my favorite things to do leading up to New Year is going to Wong Tai Sin Temple. It is a beautiful temple with a nice garden. Once there, you can light some incense and pray for good fortune. You can also have your fortune read in a few different forms. One of these deals with palm and face readings and the other is a fortune for the coming year using Chinese fortune sticks. First, you think of a question (usually you ask about health, job, and love, or it can be a specific question) then you kneel on the pads provided in front of the shrine, and shake the container of sticks until one falls out. You write the number down, put it back, and continue shaking until you get a number for each of your questions. Then you take your numbers to one of the many fortune tellers. For a small fee they will interpret your number based on your birth year. I know most people don’t believe in stuff like this, bit I really enjoyed the whole experience.

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The New Year’s Eve is the night of the parade, which is usually sponsored by some huge corporation. That year it was Cathay Pacific (Which I am convinced is the only airline that can pull up to the airport terminal in Hong Kong. All other planes board and disembark somewhere away from the terminal and passengers are bussed in). There is an option of buying a seat in a spectator section, something that should be done early as tickets sell out. For free you can line up along the parade route. My one recommendation is to get there early, especially if you are short. Arriving early also makes it so that you don’t end up in a huge crowd of people, which happened both times I went to see the parade. The parade consists of all sorts of performers, from dancers and cheerleaders (The Denver Bronco’s cheerleaders and mascot were at last year’s parade. What?), to clowns and break dancers, and always many dragons. Then there is a plethora of floats with a wide range of sponsors. (Photo is courtesy of my husband, because he is tall enough to get good pictures of the parade.)

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On the first night of the New Year the sky comes alive with the most epic fireworks show I have ever seen. Thousands of people flock to the harbor on both sides to see the magical show. If you know me, you know I LOVE fireworks. I once convinced my family when I was a kid that you would loose a birthday if you didn’t go to see the 4th of July fireworks (a plan I see now as a total failure because most adults don’t care about birthdays). So this is my favorite part of the celebrations in Hong Kong. Sadly, this year for the first 5-7 minutes my view was blocked by a man who stood up on a chair in front of me as soon as the fireworks started so he could video tape them. I finally moved myself so I could see, but was a little peeved nonetheless. I can see snapping a photo or two, but taping the whole thing? I wish people would put their phones down for ten minutes and just enjoy the show. Or at least if you are going to record it, don’t get on a chair and block everyone’s view. Ok, I will now step off my soapbox and post a few photos from the last two years.

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There are so many more things that happen for 14 days after the New Year, including horse races, a lantern festival, and Chinese Valentines Day (which landed on the same year as Western Valentines day in 2014 making it a HUGE deal in Hong Kong). We have never made it to the horse races, something I would remedy if I were to go again. There is supposed to be some fun shows that happen before the races, and I think it would be an amazing place to people watch. Also, there is always a bunch of activities happening down by the water in Tsim Sha Tsui, from opera to dancing. Spring Festival is just a really great time to visit Hong Kong. And if shopping is your thing, there are huge sales around that time as well.

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Have you celebrated Spring Festival in Hong Kong or China? What is your favorite part of the festivities?

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