What's on in Hong Kong

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Chinese new year celebrations in Hong Kong by Michael EllerayThere is always something going on in Hong Kong. Expats who move to the fragrant harbour will be able to witness and join in a host of festivities throughout the year. From the kinds of traditional Chinese festivals listed below, to Western holidays such as Halloween, East and West even live side by side in the way people celebrate. It is worth noting that most traditional cultural events take place according to the Chinese lunar calendar, but finding out dates that Western expats are familiar with will be easy enough.

The region prides itself on blending cultures and bringing traditions into the future – there isn't a better way to see this in action than watching the fireworks explode and shower colour down on Hong Kong Island's glistening skyscrapers.

Chinese New Year (February)

Hong Kong knows how to usher in the (Chinese) new year with a bang. Expats can join in the revelry by hanging decorations on their front doors, and enjoying the street parades and lavish parties. The glittering night parade and the firework display finale are not to be missed.

Hong Kong Sevens (March)

A must for any expat who comes from a rugby-playing nation, the Hong Kong Sevens take place each year in March. Rugby fanatics should head to the festive South Stand party, where the music and beer keep the energy in the crowd alive.

Tin Hau's Birthday (April/May)

In a celebration of Hong Kong's rich maritime history, thousands of locals flock to temples across the islands to ask the Goddess of the Sea, for plentiful catches, safety and good weather. The festival is perhaps best witnessed in the region's coastal villages, where celebratory locals take part in colourful boat processions, dragon dances, light fireworks and feast.

Cheung Chau Bun Festival (May)

One of the quirkiest festivals in the world, according to Time magazine, the Cheung Chau Bun festival celebrates Pak Tai, a sea god who saved the world from the Demon King and keeps natural disasters at bay. After a plague broke out in 1777, Pak Tai was credited with driving away the evil spirits that caused it. The Taoist rituals from that year are still carried out, as locals celebrate through music, parading papier-mâché effigies, dancing and taking part in a Bun Scrambling Competition, where young men scramble up bamboo-scaffolded towers made of buns.

Dragon Boat Festival (June)

One of the most vibrant occasions in the cultural calendar, the Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the death of Qu Yuan, a national hero who drowned himself to protest against the region's corrupt rulers in 278 BCE. To keep fish and evil spirits away from his body, villagers beat drums, used their paddles to splash the water and threw rice into the river. Today, his memory is celebrated by the famous dragon boat race, which symbolises the search for his body, and eating zongzi – sticky rice dumplings wrapped in either bamboo or reed leaves.

Seven Sisters Festival (August)

Known as Qi Xi to locals, the Seven Sisters festival is the Chinese equivalent of Valentine's Day. According to legend, seven fairy sisters bathing in a river had their clothes stolen by a mischievous young herder. The youngest sister had to marry the herder because he saw her naked, but her mother angrily formed a river in the sky to separate them, forming the Milky Way. Every year, the world's magpies fly up to form a bridge between Altair and Vega, stars which Chinese lore says are actually the two lovers. Girls make offerings to the stars, while single young women traditionally show off their talents in competitions to impress potential lovers. Lovers' Rock in Wan Chai is central to the festival in Hong Kong, and is a pilgrimage spot for single people and newlyweds.

Mid-Autumn Festival (September)

A harvest festival celebrated across China and Vietnam, it is one of the most important celebrations of Chinese cultural heritage. Over the course of a week, people give delicious mooncakes as gifts to friends, watch the moon amidst thousands of glowing lanterns, and take part in extravagant dragon and lion dances.

Chung Yueng Festival (October)

Also known as the Double Ninth Festival because it falls on the ninth day of the ninth Chinese calendar month, families in Hong Kong go to clean their ancestral graves, and give offerings of food to the spirits of their ancestors. This is often followed by family picnics in the outdoors, while many people hike to the highest points around the city for good luck.

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