Steeped in culture and tradition, Hong Kong honours its Chinese past with unique ancient festivals. Coming up this spring, peek into the past with four fascinating festivals: the Tin Hau Festival, the Cheung Chau Bun Festival, and the birthdays of Buddha and Tam Kung.
“The Hong Kong Tourism Board is proud to support the culture and heritage that makes Hong Kong such a vibrant city,” saids Anthony Lau, Executive Director of Hong Kong Tourism Board. “We invite visitors to immerse themselves in these ancient celebrations, which truly capture the colour and lively spirit of the city.”
From powerful drums, riveting gongs and technicolour dragon dances to joyous crowds and mountains of Chinese buns, here are a few of Hong Kong’s unforgettable festivals:
Tin Hau Festival
A celebration of Tin Hau, the Goddess of the Sea, this eponymous festival lures thousands of people to peaceful Yuen Long every third lunar month. The celebration centres around the Shap Pat Heung fa pau (floral wreath) parade. Starting at 10am, the procession fills the streets with extravagant floral wreaths, traditional dancers, and a lively marching band.
Cheung Chau Bun Festival
Taking place on the charming island of Cheung Chau, the famed Bun Festival was named one of the “Top 10 Quirky Local Festivals” by TIME Magazine, for good reason. As the story goes, the villagers summoned Pak Tai, a powerful deity, to protect them from a devastating plague, and then paraded through the streets to ward off evil spirits.
For more than a century, the villagers had celebrated the festival with the vibrant Piu Sik (Floating Colours) Parade, papier-mâché effigies, Chinese opera performances, lion dances, and delicious food throughout the week.
Where do the buns come in? Every year, local vendors produce tens of thousands of ping on bao, aka “lucky buns”. Be sure to mark your calendar for the main event: On 12 May at 11:30pm, the mind-boggling Bun Scrambling Competition takes off. Competitors scale a 14-metre-tall bamboo tower covered with 9,000 imitation buns and try to collect as many buns as possible in three minutes!
The city marks Buddha’s Birthday with a week of carnivals and spiritual experiences. A common ritual is ‘Bathing the Buddha’, where worshippers wash Buddha statues with water to show respect. Then there’s the Celebration Carnival for Buddha’s Birthday in Victoria Park, the Buddhist Birthday Charity Concert at the Hong Kong Coliseum, and various events at Po Lin Monastery, on lush Lantau Island.
Tam Kung’s Birthday
A sea deity worshipped by fishing communities, Tam Kung is known for his ageless face and ability to forecast the weather. Every fourth lunar month, villagers celebrate the god at the century-old Tam Kung Temple in Shau Kei Wan with traditional lion and dragon dance parade.