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Calendar of Events & Festivals
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Public Holidays and Festivals

The typical year in Hong Kong is interspersed with numerous festivals, which to the layperson means public holidays.† The major festival of the year is Chinese New Year, held in late January or early February depending on the lunar calendar. Public holidays are numerous - take advantage of the long weekends to travel Asia, but plan ahead as flights and hotels do tend to get booked up and prices rise as the departure date approaches.†

Fixed Holidays

New Year's Day
Labour Day
HKSAR Establishment Day
National Day
Christmas Day
Boxing Day

Moveable Holidays

Chinese Lunar Year
Good Friday - Easter Monday
Ching Ming
Birth of Buddha
Tuen Ng (Dragon Boat Festival)
Mid-Autumn Festival
Chung Yeung Festival

Statutory Holidays

The first day of January
The day preceding the Lunar New Year's Day
Lunar New Year's Day
Ching Ming Festival
Labour Day
Tuen Ng Festival
HKSAR Establishment Day
The day following Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival
National Day
Chung Yeung Festival
Chinese Winter Solstice Festival or Christmas Day at the option of the Employer

Chinese New Year
- Late January or early February

The Chinese New Year celebration is taken quite seriously in Hong Kong.† A week of holiday is taken in which families are reunited, banquets are held, houses are cleaned and new suits of clothing are bought in anticipation of new beginnings in the new year, all of which are symbolically significant.

Family and friends are the focus of the week, as are the tying up of loose ends from the previous year.† Arguments are most definitely avoided for fear that this would set a precedent for the next year.†

Married couples give Ďlai seeĀEor red packets of lucky money, to children and unmarried adults, whilst employees will receive the same in the form of a New Year's bonus. It is also customary to give lai see to the people who provide you with regular services (the office tea lady, your hairdresser, caretakers in your building, newspaper boys, etc.) as a show of appreciation for their services. Only a token amount is required, usually HK$20, but make sure that the bill is new and crisp (the bank will oblige you with new notes as well as red packets). If you arenít sure how much to give, ask amongst your neighbours and colleagues.

The festival is tremendously colourful with peach blossom branches, narcissus flowers, kumquat trees and chrysanthemums displayed in every shop to draw in luck and prosperity.† A magnificent fireworks display over Victoria Harbour,† lion and dragon dances in the streets, and firecrackers in the New Territories, though officially banned,† all add to the festive atmosphere.

You may plan to go away during Chinese New Year and, if travelling within the region, you will need to book your flights and accommodation well in advance. It is a very popular time to take an extended holiday.† If you are staying in Hong Kong for the festivities,† you will need to stock up on provisions as just about†every shop and restaurant will take a minimum of two to three days off.††

"Kung Hei Fat Choi" is the typical greeting during the Chinese New Year period and is bandied about in much the same way as "Merry Christmas" is in the West.

Ching Ming - April
Ching Ming is the grave sweeping festival. Thousands of families venture out to their ancestral gravesites to clean, repair and set out offerings for their ancestors.

It is a time of emphasis on the family line and ancestry, a time of connection between the generations past, present and future.† This, to the Chinese, is very important as traditionally the Chinese judge their personal worth and status in relation to their standing within the family. Rather than being regarded as an individual in the western sense, a Chinese person is seen as one component of a group, and is taught to live his/her life with a view to promoting that group in whatever way possible. The Chinese are traditionally family-centric.

Tin Hau Festival - May(not a public holiday)
The Tin Hau Festival is held in honour of the goddess, Tin Hau, Protector of the Sea and Fishermen.† On Tin Hau's birthday, the twenty-third day of the third moon, fishing boats, sampans and other craft head for brightly decorated temples dedicated to this goddess.† The main Tin Hau temple is located in Joss House Bay where thousands of boats gather in celebration.

Cheung Chau Bun Festival - late April or early May (not a public holiday)
This festival, held on outlying Cheung Chau Island, is held, according to some, to appease the spirits of those who died in a plague that swept the island or, according to others, to appease the spirits of those murdered by pirates on the island.† No matter, it is a festival of religious ceremonies, processions, lion dances and Chinese opera.† The festival culminates with buns from the towering bun-covered structures being distributed for good fortune.

Dragon Boat Festival - early June

Usually the fifth day of the fifth moon,† the Dragon Boat Festival is held in memory of a scholar politician who drowned himself after his proposed reforms were rejected by the Emperor during the Warring States period (403 - 221 B.C.).† Local villagers rushed to the fateful spot in a futile attempt at saving him and, unable to do so, beat the water with paddles to scare the fish away and threw bamboo stuffed with rice into the sea to stop them from feasting on the body of their beloved scholar.†

The scholar was proved to be correct in his reforms and was posthumously recognized and honoured.† Thus, this scene is re-enacted every year with the dragon boat races across the territory. These races consist of a heat of rowers in long wooden canoes, decorated with a dragonís head at the stern and dragonís tail at the bow, paddling vigorously to a the beat of a drum.
The races are held at Stanley Beach and are a fun activity for all the family. You can participate by joining an expatriate team through various associations and clubs. It's a good laugh, a great day out and very hard work!

Hungry Ghost Festival - August (not a public holiday)
The Chinese equivalent to Halloween, this festival is held on the fourteenth day of the seventh moon, when the spirits of those who died untimely deaths, and†hungry and neglected spirits wander the earth.† Paper constructions of things necessary to live comfortably in the Afterworld, such as a car, servants, and gold ingots, are burned, whilst wine and food are laid out as offerings of appeasement.

Moon Cake Festival or Mid Autumn Festival - late August or September
The Moon Cake Festival, held on the fifteenth day of the eighth moon, commemorates an uprising against the Mongols in the fourteenth-century.† It is believed that plans for the uprising were written on pieces of paper and hidden in moon cakes distributed to co-conspirators.† Today, the Mid Autumn Festival is celebrated with moon cakes, colourful lanterns lit with candles, and a trip up the Peak or to a beach to watch the full moon rise.

Chung Yeung Festival - October
Chung Yeung Festival falls on the ninth day of the ninth moon and refers to an incident that took place during the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 221 AD). Legend has it that in response to a fortunetellerís warning of impending disaster, a man took his family up a hill, away from their village. Upon the family's return to their house, they found that disaster had indeed struck; all their farm animals were dead.† It is now tradition, on this day, for families to spend the day on a hill or other high place in order to avoid misfortune.

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