Are you planning to visit Hong Kong for the Chinese New Year or you are not yet sure whether to stay or travel during that time? Maybe it helps if you can give you a few tips on what you can and should do?
Public holidays on Jan 31 and Feb 3
Chinese New Year is the biggest holiday celebration in Hong Kong, full of traditions and customs, special dishes and frantic gift giving. This year, Chinese New Year’s Day falls on Friday January 31, 2014 – which is a public holiday. Many independent retailers will close their doors on that day. Major attractions, theme parks and public transport will operate as usual. There will even be special celebrations at Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park. Street markets and stalls will usually close on the first and second day of the Chinese New Year (Jan 31 and Feb 1), and resume business from the third day Feb 2). The other public holiday this year is Monday Feb 3 but by then most shops will have resumed business.
Lunar New Year Flower Market from Jan 25 to 31
Hong Kong is perpetually doused in a riot of colour, however with the onset of Chinese New Year the city is decorated in a fresh coat of colour. From skyscraper sized neon signs, to the red ribbons draped throughout the streets, perhaps the brightest and best colours come from Hong Kong’s flower markets. The ‘big day’ for the flower market is Chinese New Year’s Eve, when the city’s biggest flower market at Victoria Park will be swarming with people looking to pick up prize bouquets. The flowers are said to give good luck and are given when visiting family for the traditional New Years Eve feast of chicken and fish. The markets are open from noon to midnight, but can be very busy in the late afternoon and evening (see my post of the 2012 Victoria Flower market).
Night Parade on Jan 31
Every New Year’s Day Hong Kong puts on a spectacular Night Parade of brightly coloured floats and performing artists in Tsim Sha Tsui, transforming the harbour-front area into a giant street party venue. It will start at 8pm and last for 90 minutes, but you will need to make your way to the site at at least 6pm to grab a good spot and then depending on where you are (we usually stand somewhere on Nathan Road) the 90 minutes can stretch, as the parade will move slowly. Here’s my blog post about the 2012 parade.
Highlights of this year’s night parade will include 10 international performing troupes: Starlight Alchemy from Singapore, who will play with fire; The Korea Taekwondo Association, and the Aussie Cheer and Dance Collective, who will be kicking and dancing; The Bicycle Showbank from the Netherlands and The Toys from France, who will perform stunts on bikes and stilts, respectively; and LUXe from Ireland and Journey to the Caribbean from Trinidad, St Lucia and Barbados, who will be dressed in gaudy costumes and bring in large-scale props to add colour and gaiety to the night parade.
You can just go and visit the Night Parade for free, but there are some spectator seats at the Hong Kong Culture Centre Piazza that will go on sale on Jan 25 for 300-400 HKD. For enquiries, just call the visitor hotline +852 2508 1234 (9am to 6pm daily).
Fireworks on Feb 1
The fireworks display for Chinese New Year is always the biggest and largest in Hong Kong. Thousands will line both sides of iconic Victoria Harbour on the second day of the Chinese New Year with an astounding pyrotechnic display. The fireworks start at 8pm but again, for a nice viewing spot, you have to be there really early. 6pm is probably too late already if you want to grab a space at the Kowloon waterfront.
In my first year I did manage to queue up for three hours to get close to the fireworks – it was a great experience, but this year I will resort to viewing from the Public Ferry Piers on Hong Kong Island (as I did for the New Year’s Eve 2013 fireworks), it’s less crowded.
Chinese New Year Race Day on Feb 2
This is one of the events that I’ve never been, but I do love a good night at the races (see here). Every year there is a race at the Sha Tin racecourse, designed to celebrate the New Year with some good fortune!
Temple visits until Feb 14
Don’t be surprised when you visit temples during the Chinese New Year – they will be very busy! Starting on the first day of the new year and right up until the Spring Lantern Festival (Feb 14), locals flock to aromatic temples to pray for good fortune, fill themselves with auspicious foods and string up shock-red lanterns. It’s a beautiful sight, but it will be packed!
Lam Tsuen Well-Wishing Festival from Jan 31 to Feb 14
If you missed the parade on New Year’s Day, the floats will be on display as in previous years at the Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees, where the Well-Wishing Festival celebrations will be well on their way and the groups that performed at the New Year’s Parade will also be performing at the festival. To get there, take the MTR to Tai Wo Station then a free shuttle or taxi to Lam Tsuen Wishing Square.
Spring Lantern Festival on Feb 14
The Spring Lantern Festival falls on the 15th day of the first lunar month. Love likes to have the final word, and on the last day of Chinese New Year celebrations, couples spend time together on what’s informally known as ‘Chinese Valentine’s Day’ – which happens to fall on the Western Valentine’s Day this year.
What are your plans for this year’s celebrations to welcome the year of the horse?