Hong Kong
Sponsor Content

  Uniquely Hong Kong  
  festivals to discover  

Chinese festivals are primarily a time of the three “Fs”: festivity, family and (of course) food. Everyone knows about Lunar New Year, celebrated throughout East Asia and parts of Southeast Asia, including Hong Kong. But do you know about some of the more unique or locally celebrated festivals held in this city?

Ap Lei Chau Hung Shing Festival

With Hong Kong’s coastline and former history as a fishing village (or rather, many fishing villages), it is no surprise to see that the history behind most festivals revolves around the sea. The Hung Shing Festival venerates Hung Hei, an astronomer and geographer, as well as the Governor of Panyu during the Tang dynasty. The festival was held in his honour by fishermen who felt they owed a great deal to his ability to forecast the weather, thus assisting fishermen and merchants alike. In coastal Ap Lei Chau, a 240-year-old temple dedicated to Hung Shing marks the start of the festival with dragon and lion dances, Chinese opera and more. The festival is also celebrated in other fishing communities around Hong Kong.

WHEN: 13th day of the second lunar month

Ching Ming Festival

Ching Ming transliterates as “clean and bright.” The ancient festival, celebrated for more than 2,000 years among Chinese culture, is a means to pay respect to ancestors primarily through tomb sweeping and other offerings such as incense and food. Cemeteries, which are traditionally not frequently visited in Chinese culture, are packed during the Ching Ming Festival. A unique tradition that has carried on is the burning of fake money, to wish the ancestors a wealthy afterlife. Interestingly, as time moves on, it seems money alone is no longer enough: these offerings now include mock-ups of the latest tech gear, as well as luxury cars and consumer goods.

WHEN: Third lunar month

Cheung Chau Bun Festival

This is probably one of the better-known Hong Kong festivals worldwide, thanks to the ubiquitous images that are synonymous with this festival – bamboo (bun) towers being scaled and, of course, the delicious buns themselves. However, its more recent celebrations are a stark contrast to its rather dark origins: the town’s response to a plague that devastated the southwestern island in the Qing dynasty was to build an altar to the god Pak Tai to ward off the evil spirits. Today’s festivities are a continuation of this Taoist ritual and also a testament to the strength of the community within this small island and all those they have influenced beyond.

WHEN: Fifth day to ninth day of the fourth lunar month

Hungry Ghost Festival

This is certainly a memorable sight around Hong Kong, when it is not uncommon to see the roadsides of the city in traditional residential areas lit up with small fires, accompanied by offerings of food that are also left roadside by the fires. This ritual marks the occasion of Yu Lan or the Hungry Ghost Festival. According to Chinese myth, this is the period during which spirits roam the land, so the fires (and offerings) are a way to appease them.

The festival is one of the larger ones held around Hong Kong, with a dedicated exhibition at Causeway Bay’s Victoria Park, one of the city’s premier parks. The exhibition, usually a large, custom-built and ornately decorated bamboo stage, features a drama or a Chinese opera. Similar exhibitions are held at town halls or communal spaces, where temporary bamboo stages are built.

Similar exhibitions are held at town halls or communal spaces, where temporary bamboo stages are built.

WHEN: 15th day of the seventh lunar month

Monkey God Festival

The mythical story of the Monkey God, first popularized in the Ming dynasty novel Journey to the West, is a universally loved character and has since been featured in dedicated television shows and movies. The story follows the pilgrimage of a monk, whose disciples include the Monkey God (or King of the Monkeys). Known for his cunning and wit, and after passing through many ordeals as a result of his naughtiness and self-inflicted terror, the Monkey God achieves Buddhahood.

In Hong Kong, the festivities primarily take place around the Monkey God Temple in Sau Mau Ping, near Po Tat Estate. Today, only the burning of incense and paper are provided as offerings to the Monkey King, as a procession of statues in sedan chairs is often carried out. In its heyday, however, a series of intense physical challenges such as walking on hot coals was common.

WHEN: 16th day of the eighth lunar month

How to shop in Hong Kong like a local

Where to get the best views of Hong Kong

More from this series

This content was produced by The Globe and Mail's Globe Content Studio.
The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.

Content from the Globe and Mail