If you’re lucky, your trip might coincide with one of Hong Kong’s colorful festivals. The only festival that shops and offices close for is the Chinese New Year, though some in Tsim Sha Tsui remain open to cater to tourists. Below are the most popular events, including Chinese festivals and festivals of the arts.
Chinese New Year, the most important Chinese holiday, this is a 3-day affair, a time for visiting friends and relatives and doing a thorough housecleaning. Strips of red paper with greetings of wealth, good fortune, and longevity are pasted on doors, and families visit temples. Most shops (except those in tourist areas) close down for at least 2 or 3 days; streets and building facades are decorated with elaborate light displays; flower markets sell peach trees, chrysanthemums, and other good-luck flowers; a colorful parade winds its way along the waterfront, usually on the first day; and a dazzling display of fireworks lights up the harbor, usually on the second day of the holiday.
Hong Kong Arts Festival
This is a month-long celebration with performances by world-renowned orchestras, pop and jazz ensembles, and opera, dance, and theater companies; and with ethnic music and art exhibitions.
Hong Kong Sevens Rugby Tournament, Hong Kong Stadium. Known as “The Sevens,” this is one of Hong Kong’s most popular, and one of Asia’s largest, sporting events, with more than 20 teams from around the world competing for the Cup Championship. Tickets are often sold out.
Ching Ming Festival, a Confucian festival to honor the dead, observed by sweeping ancestral graves, burning incense, offering food and flowers.
Hong Kong International Film Festival, Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre, City Hall, and other venues around town. More than 300 films from more than 40 countries are featured at this 2-week event, including new releases, documentaries, and archival films. Tickets for most events cost HK$55.
Tin Hau Festival, all Tin Hau temples, especially in Joss House Bay and Yuen Long. This colorful festival celebrates the birth of Tin Hau, goddess of the sea and Hong Kong’s most popular deity among fishing folk. The celebration stems from a legendary fisherman’s daughter who could supposedly calm stormy seas and protect fishermen. To pay her tribute, fishing boats are decorated with colorful flags, parades and lion dances fill the streets, and family shrines are carried to shore to be blessed by Taoist priests. A similar festival is held at A-Ma Temple in Macau.
Buddha’s Birthday, Buddhist temples throughout Hong Kong. Worshippers flock to pay respect to Siddhartha, founder of Buddhism, and to bathe Buddha statues. The Po Lin Monastery on Lantau island is one of the most popular destinations on this day.
Dragon Boat Races (Tuen Ng Festival). Races of long, narrow, gaily painted boats are powered by 20 to 22 oarsmen who row to the beat of drums. The races originated in ancient China.
Mid-Autumn Festival, Victoria Park, Kowloon Park, and Victoria Peak. Held in early autumn, this major festival (sometimes referred to as the Moon Festival) celebrates the harvest and the brightest moon of the year. In honor of the event, local people light lanterns in the shapes of fish, flowers, and even ships and planes, gaze at the moon, and eat mooncakes (sweet rolls with sesame seeds, duck eggs, and ground lotus seeds). The Urban Council organizes lantern carnivals in parks on both Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, where you can join the Chinese for strolls among hundreds of lanterns, making this one of Hong Kong’s most charming and picturesque festivals. In addition, don’t miss the dragon fire dance in Causeway Bay’s Tai Hang district.