What are quirky local customs in Hong Kong?

Answers from Our Experts (1)

Leanne Mirandilla

Hong Kong often interweaves a fast-paced, modern way of life with traditional Chinese customs, which are a mishmash of Buddhism, Taoism, folk religion and others. Spirituality varies from person to person, and can be more common among elderly members of the population. These customs have a variety of aims, including honoring one's ancestors and encouraging good luck or getting rid of bad luck. Older shops and residential buildings will sometimes have little niches in the wall in front of the shop or flat, where incense is burned and food offered up to the god of land, in order to gain his protection.

Certain customs are tied to specific festivals: during the Hungry Ghost Festival, it's believed by some to be unlucky to go out during the evening, as the ghosts will follow you around and bring you bad luck. Joss paper may be burned to appease the ghosts. During Chinese New Year, there are plenty of lion dances that drive away bad spirits; many housing estates and office buildings organize a lion dance through the whole building. Residents hang up a head of lettuce in offering to the lion — usually comprised of two dancers, one playing the lion's front and one the back — which the lion "eats."

The city's colonial past influences some of its present-day customs, as well: some working class Hong Kongers have an afternoon tea of an egg tart or other pastry and milk tea at around 3 p.m. every day, an adaptation of the British-style afternoon tea.

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