Hong Kong Experience


Best Fests and Fêtes

Traditional Festivals

Cheung Chau Bun Festival. Thousands make the yearly trip to Cheung Chau Island for the exuberant Cheung Chau Bun Festival, a four-day-long Taoist thanksgiving feast. A procession of children dressed as gods winds its way toward Pak Tai Temple, where 60-foot towers covered in sweet buns quiver outside—the idea is that people climb the towerse to get to the buns; the higher the bun the better the fortune bestowed on the person. (8th day of 4th moon, usually May)

Chinese New Year. The loudest and proudest traditional festival, Chinese New Year, brings Hong Kong to a standstill each year. Shops shut down, and everywhere you look there are red and gold signs, kumquat trees, and pots of yellow chrysanthemums, all considered auspicious. On the lunar new year's eve the crowds climax at the flower markets and fairs; on the first night there's a colorfully noisy parade; on the second night the crowds ooh and ahh at the no-costs-spared fireworks display over the harbor. (1st day of 1st moon, usually late Jan.–early Feb.)

Ching Ming. Ancestor worship is important in Hong Kong culture, and on Ching Ming families meet to sweep the graves of departed relatives and burn paper offerings in respect for them. (3rd moon, Apr. 4 or 5)

Dragon Boat Festival. The Dragon Boat Festival pits long, multi-oared, dragon-head boats against one another in races to the shore; the biggest event is held at Stanley Beach. The festival commemorates the hero Qu Yuan, a poet and scholar who drowned himself in the 3rd century BC to protest government corruption. These days it's one big beach party. (5th day of 5th moon, usually June)

Hungry Ghosts Festival. Smoldering piles of paper are everywhere during the Hungry Ghosts Festival. Replicas of houses, cars, and Monopoly-style "hell money" are burned as offerings to the ancestral spirits allowed to roam the earth for these two weeks, when the gates of hell are opened. (15th day of 7th moon, usually Aug.–Sept.)

Lantern Festival. The Chinese New Year festivities end with the overwhelmingly red Lantern Festival. Hong Kong's parks—especially Victoria Park—become a sea of light as people, mostly children, gather with beautifully shaped paper or cellophane lanterns. It's also a traditional day for playful matchmaking, so it's particularly auspicious for single people. (15th day of 1st moon, usually Feb.)

Mid-Autumn Festival. During the Mid-Autumn Festival, families and friends gather to admire the full moon while munching on moon cakes, which are traditionally stuffed with lotus-seed paste, though new-fangled "snowy skin" varieties are also popular. Colorful paper lanterns fill Hong Kong's parks, and a 220-foot-long "fire dragon" dances through the streets of Tai Hang near Victoria Park. (15th day of 8th moon, usually Sept.–Oct.)

Non-Traditional Events

Clockenflap. Hong Kong's answer to Glastonbury, Clockenflap has brought major musical acts to the city, including Primal Scream, Santigold, and the Cribs. Concert-goers can sit on grassy patches surrounding the stages or can check out the multimedia art exhibitions and film tent. (Usually Nov. or Dec.) www.clockenflap.com.

Rugby Sevens. The biggest sporting event in Hong Kong is the Rugby Sevens tournament held at the end of March. Teams fly in from all over the world, but the competition between the New Zealand "All Blacks" and Fiji being particularly fierce. The Sevens is known for its party atmosphere so expect plenty of booze and crazy costumes, especially from the infamous South Stand. (End of March) www.hksevens.com.hk.

Wine and Dine Festival. Every year, the Hong Kong Tourism Board throws a month-long culinary extravaganza packed with restaurant deals, tours, and food-themed street carnivals. The highlight event is the four-day Wine and Dine Festival, which has colorful booths offering tasty snacks and tipples. Try some, buy some, and feast to your heart's content. (Usually late Oct.–early Nov.)

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