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Hong Kong is home to plenty of traditional local festivals, including but not limited to:
Chinese New Year: On a different day every year (following the Lunar Calendar), but typically in late January or early February, there's always plenty going on the week of Chinese New Year, from lion dances to flower markets overloaded with lucky plum blossoms to a firework display on the actual new year's day. Restaurants around the city are bound to have special Chinese New Year feasts and promotions on offer, as well.
Dragon Boat Festival: Based on the legend that the poet Qu Yuan committed suicide in a river after being accused of treason, the Dragon Boat Festival commemorates his death by emulating the boats that dropped sticky rice triangles into the river, so that the fish would eat the rice rather than his body. While there is no rice-triangle-dropping during the Dragon Boat Festival, teams of dragon boat racers row against each other, and the races are all open to spectators.
Mid-Autumn Festival: Historically held in celebration of harvest season and occuring in late September or early October, Mid-Autumn festival occurs when there is a full moon. Families and friends take to the city parks with lanterns and eat mooncakes. Fire dragon dances are held in Tai Hang, as well.
Chinese New Year: For local Hong Kongers and Chinese, this festival in January/ February (depending on the moon) is arguably the most important of the year. Celebrations continue over the course of a week, during which people exchange gifts and lucky red-packets of money, lai see. The city also puts on quite a display, with spectacular fireworks, a long float parade in TST, and "flower" markets (which sell much more than just flowers). But the festival isn't an ideal time to be in town, unless you'll be involved in family decorations--many businesses close and the big crowds at the parade and fireworks can be frustrating and exhausting.
Hong Kong Rugby Sevens: Thousands of fans descend upon the city for Hong Kong's most raucous and iconic sporting event, both to watch the rugby tournament and partake in the drunken revelries that attend it. Lan Kwai Fong and Wan Chai are filled nightly with costumed fans, not unlike Halloween.
Dragon Boat Festival: In June, teams of dragon boat racers hit to the water to partake in a week of competitions, which can be exhilarating to watch. Many teams train year-round for the big champion race at Stanley. The festival traditionally commemorates the legendary poet Qu Yuan who fought corruption at the Emperor's court and threw himself into the river--the underlying message may be more meaninful to Hong Kongers now than ever.
Mid-Autumn Festival: This festival is perhaps Hong Kong's most charming. Families and friends gather to light colorful paper lanterns and eat sweet, sticky mooncakes.
Clockenflap: Hong Kong isn't known as a music capital of Asia, but the organizers of Clockenflap, an outdoor music festival in West Kowloon, are working to change that. Each December, local bands and international names come together to put on two days' worth of great shows. It may not be Coachella or Fuji Rock, but it gets better and bigger each year. Past headliners included Alt-J, Azealia Banks, Hot Chip, YACHT, and Santigold.
Chinese New Year
January or February: The pinnacle of Hong Kong’s festivals has got to be Chinese New Year. The major celebration for a Chinese or Hong Konger, the city puts on a spectacular firework display over Victoria Harbour, a procession of floats at the International Chinese New Year Night Parade, and humongous flower markets.
New Year’s Eve, when everyone is dressed in new, often red, clothes, is the first get-together. During the holiday lai see (red packets) of money are given and ancestors are remembered with gifts or food and incense burned at home altars. At midnight doors and windows are opened to let the old year out. But be warned, as it is primarily a family celebration the rest of the city can be super quiet with many businesses closed.
Dragon Boat Festival
June: Great fun for locals, expats and tourists, is the Dragon Boat Festival. The legend tells of wise Qu Yuan who fought against corruption within the Emperor’s court and was eventually exiled as a result. He travelled extensively teaching and writing, and when he heard the Chu State had been defeated by the Qin State he drowned himself. People took to boats and threw zongzi (glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves) into the river to feed the fish so that they could salvage his body, and the anniversary of his death has been commemorated through dragon boat races ever since.
The festival’s highlight is the famous dragon boat competition at Stanley, where teams paddle at break-neck speed to the beating of the drums. Some take the races seriously, some dress up in outlandish costumes, and both make for a colourful and exciting day.
Check your calendar before coming to Hong Kong to see if your visit coincides with any of these events. And then, try and get tickets.
Hong Kong Arts Festival In February, some of the world’s premiere performing artists and groups assemble in Hong Kong for a month of dance recitals, music, and drama.
Hong Kong Sevens For three days in March, HK becomes the world capital of rugby, hosting this tournament of 28 teams and many thousands of very enthusiastic fans.
Dragon Boat Carnival A week of revelry surrounds the International Dragon Boat Championship, when world class rowers take to Victoria Harbour to prove their mettle in these colorful, traditional watercraft.
Mid-Autumn Festival Rooted in agricultural traditions, this harvest holiday is marked by elaborate displays of lanterns (the most spectacular is in Victoria Park), a dragon fire dance in Tai Hang and the mass consumption of mooncakes.
Wine and Dine Month In November, Hong Kong's food and beverage industry kicks it into high gear for a month of special events, tastings, tours and promotions.