Festivals are a part and parcel of Hong Kong life. The city celebrates several Chinese, Confucian, and Buddhist festivals as well as popular Western festivals within a year. In fact, public holidays are plentiful in Hong Kong as schools; government and financial institutions close for most major festivals in Hong Kong. Hong Kong residents on an average enjoy eighteen public holidays a year. The HKSAR government website lists the designated public holidays for the year for the information of the public. Additionally, if a festival public holiday falls on a weekend, the following Monday is declared as a public holiday.
New Year’s Day – January 1st
A grand fireworks display in Victoria Harbor usually heralds in the New Year in Hong Kong. Parties and celebrations ring out the old year at bars and restaurants throughout Hong Kong.
Chinese New Year –The Lunar New Year- late January or early February
Chinese New Year or the Spring festival comes around towards late January or early February every year. The festival is Hong Kong’s biggest celebration. Family feasts, gift-giving, parades, and lion dances, spectacular firework displays all feature as part of the Chinese New Year celebrations in Hong Kong. Schools, postal services, financial institutions, markets and even supermarkets close for business for the three days of Chinese New Year. The Chinese New Year break is also the busiest period for travel from Hong Kong as many people take advantage of the extended public holidays to go off on vacation.
Ching Ming Festival –Early April
The Taoist Ching Ming festival is scheduled for the third month of the lunar year or the 15th day after the spring equinox. The festival is also known as Ancestors’ Day or Chinese Memorial day for on this day Hong Kongers go out to graveyards to sweep and clean the graves of their ancestors. Aside from cleaning the graves, they also offer food and incense graveside, along with paper models of goods deemed to be necessary for modern life. These include replicas of cars, computers, smartphones and large bundles of paper money. By making these offerings, folk hope to smoothen the journey to the after-life for their ancestors.
Easter–March or early April
Hong Kong’s Christian community is approximately a million strong. Hence, holidays are declared for Good Friday and the day after Easter Sunday. Hong Kong’s many churches host various services for the holidays. Hotels, restaurants, and shopping malls also get into the act by offering specials for Easter.
The Buddha’s Birthday (Early May)
A significant portion of Hong Kong’s population follows the Buddhist faith. Buddha’s birthday falls on the eighth day of the fourth lunar month. The festival is in fact, celebrated all over Asia. In Hong Kong, the celebrations are concentrated at city’s famous attraction, the tall, bronze, TienTien Buddha that soars to a height of 112 feet as it looms over Lantau Island. On this day devotees throng Buddhist temples around Hong Kong as they seek an opportunity to bathe a likeness of Buddha. This ritual is believed to purify the soul.
Tuen Ng Festival (June)
The Tuen Ng Festival is scheduled for the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. This festival also has a story behind it. Qu Yuan, a poet, was also a minister at the court of the state of Chu during the Warring States period of the Zhou Dynasty. Qu opposed the emperor’s alliance with the Qin dynasty and as a punishment he was exiled and accused of treason. Qu remained in exile for 28 years and during these years he kept active by writing a lot of poetry.
The state of Qin advanced to conquer the state of Chu. When Qu Yuan learned of this, he was despondent, and he took his life by jumping into the Miluo River. The villagers had great regard for Qu Yuan, and when they learned of his suicide attempt, they got on their long, slim dragon boats and tried to rescue him. This is the history of the origin of the Tuen Ng festival. Nowadays dragon boat races feature prominently in the celebrations of the festival. Teams train hard for the dragon boat races and huge crowds congregate at points like Stanley Beach, Aberdeen Harbor Sha tin, Sai Kung, Discovery Bay and various other spots to view the thrilling races.
Hong Kong SAR Establishment Day (July 1st)
An extravagant fireworks display in Victoria Harbor, and various flag hoisting events mark Hong Kong SAR Establishment Day. The day commemorates the handover of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China. This event took place on 1st July 1997.
The Mid-Autumn Festival (September)
The Mid-Autumn or Chinese lantern festival is an ancient festival, which originated more than three thousand years ago. The festival was once the exclusive domain of Chinese emperors as they celebrated the appearance of the new moon and prayed for a good harvest. During the Tang and Song dynasties, the celebration of the Mid Autumn festival became inclusive of the general public. The festival celebrates the dawn of a spectacular full moon and comes around usually in late September or October, the precise date being the 15th day of the eighth lunar month.
In the run up to the festival families spruce and clean their homes and decorate them with beautiful lanterns. Having a meal with friends and family is an important ritual of the festival. At the end of the meal sinfully rich pastries called moon cakes are offered with tea. In fact, bakeries and patisseries all over Hong Kong begin to prepare various types of moon cakes for the festival way in advance for these delicious pastries feature prominently as gifts for the festival.
After dinner with family and friends, people usually go out to parks or scenic points to gaze at the moon and celebrate. Holiday markets; lantern making and decorating contests and the fire dragon dance at the Tai Hang district of Hong Kong are some of the festivities associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival.
National Day (October 1st)
National Day is slated for October 1st each year. This holiday honors the establishment of the PRC on October 1st 1949. Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau observe this holiday. Huge crowds gather at the waterfront promenades at TsimShaTsui and Central to view the stunning fireworks display in Victoria Harbor, a tradition for the holiday.
Chung Yeung Festival (October)
The Chung Yeung Festival also known as the Festival of High Places or the Autumn Remembrance festival is linked to ancestor worship. The festival is earmarked for the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, which coincides with mid-October according to the western calendar. For this festival people head out to graveyards (usually avoided at other times of the year) to visit the gravesites of their departed loved ones. After offering prayers graveside, they go onto hike one of the many hike routes littered throughout Hong Kong. An exerting hike after the offering of prayers at a cemetery is said to bestow good fortune on the worshippers.
Christmas Day (December 25th)
Christmas is perhaps on of Hong Kong’s most elaborate festivals. The city’s many shopping malls like Harbor City, the Landmark, Pacific Place and others pullout all stops and put up elaborate Winter Wonderland. Christmas lights, church services, parties and festive events at hotels and restaurants feature prominently in Hong Kong’s Christmas revelries. Boxing Day or 26th December, the day after Christmas is also designated as a holiday in Hong Kong.