The land of umpteen customs, rituals and traditions, Hong Kong is one of the most exciting destinations to visit in the Far East. The city sure sparkles under the glory of its skyscrapers and other architectural wonders but its essence is best discovered during in an encounter with its culture and traditions.
Here are two upcoming festivals where you can lap up to a true-blue cultural experience in the city:
Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance
Scheduled to be held from 23-25 September, the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance is a celebration of the city’s rich customs and traditions. The story goes that in the 19th century, the people of Tai Hang started the ritual of performing the dragon dance in order to ward off a stroke of ill fate that was hanging over their village. What started a century ago as a desperate cry for help to gods has today entered China’s list of intangible cultural heritage.
The three-day festival is held at an immense scale with up to 300 performers dancing with a 67-metre dragon, consisting of 32 sections and whose head alone weighs 48 kg. About 24,000 incense sticks are burned every night during the festivities in two pearls or pomelos that are held by men leading the dance. The drummers accompanying the dance erupt into an intense routine and there’s fire and smoke emanating from the ritual fire as well as the firecrackers. Gather at the Tai Hang, Causeway Bay between 8:15–10:30pm on 23–24 September and 8:15–10pm on 25 September to be a part of the this massive celebration.
Observed on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a harvest festival and one of the biggest in the city. The festival is centred on gathering, thanksgiving and praying and features family reunions and gatherings of friends. People thanks the gods (the moon god in particular) for the year’s harvest and pray for the longevity and well-being of their family and friends. Eating of moon cakes with family; a thin, tender pastry skin enveloping a sweet, dense filling; is a mandatory part of the celebrations. This ancient custom is believed to symbolise unity. One of the highlights of the festival is The Fire Dragon Dance where dancers perform elaborate dance routine on the lines of those performed during the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance. But the spectacle that leaves you feeling surreal during the festival is thousands of paper lanterns flying in the sky, lighting the city and enveloping it in breathtaking beauty. Though the festival is celebrated all across Hong Kong, you visit Victoria Park where the grandeur of the festival far exceeds anywhere else in the city.