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How to Celebrate Chinese New Year in Hong Kong

Picture of Matthew Keegan
Updated: 22 January 2018
Chinese New Year (aka Lunar New Year) is the biggest annual celebration in Hong Kong with a hive of festivities taking place in the city. From the annual parade to the biggest fireworks display and lion and dragon dances, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Here’s a roundup of where and how to celebrate the Year of the Dog in Hong Kong.

When is Chinese New Year?

This year, Chinese New Year falls on Friday, February 16, 2018, and marks the start of the Year of the Dog. Typically, the celebrations last for three days in Hong Kong, but as Chinese New Year 2018 coincides with a Sunday this year, there is an extra public holiday on Monday.

Chinese New Year Dog Year 2018
2018 marks the Year of the Dog in the Chinese zodiac. | © Fanghong / Wiki Commons

What to eat during Chinese New Year in Hong Kong

There are several auspicious foods that Hongkongers like to eat during Chinese New Year. These foods are believed to bring good luck and prosperity.

Steamed glutinous rice cake: sounding similar to ‘higher year’ in Chinese, it’s traditional to eat steamed glutinous rice cake each year to symbolise raising oneself higher.
Black Moss: in Cantonese is called ‘fat choi’, which sounds like ‘prosperity’.
Tongyuen: these sweet glutinous rice balls are a popular dessert eaten during Chinese New Year. The word tongyuen sounds like ‘reunion’ which fits the time of year when coming together as a family is considered most important.
Dried oysters: in Cantonese is the word ‘ho si’ which sounds similar to ‘good business’.
Pig trotter: or sometimes a pork knuckle represents getting extra financial income.

In addition to these auspicious foods, most Hong Kong families will come together on Chinese New Year’s Eve for the annual reunion dinner (tuen nin dinner) which takes the form of a big feast to commemorate the past year and is considered the most important family get together of the year.

Glutinous rice balls served in sweet soup
Glutinous rice balls served in sweet soup | © Sebastian Mary/Flickr

Chinese New Year sales in Hong Kong

Shopping in Hong Kong is good all year round, but in the run-up to Chinese New Year, the city witnesses some of its best sales when prices are slashed considerably. Just a few days before Chinese New Year is the prime time for uncovering bargains. Sales are mostly in the Hong Kong malls. Some stores even give out vouchers in red lai see packets (good luck money packets). It’s worth looking out for these because they often have big savings inside.

Chinese New Year Sales Hong Kong
The best sales of the year in Hong Kong occur a few days before Chinese New Year. Photo | Public Domain

How to Celebrate Chinese New Year in Hong Kong

If you’re lucky enough to be in Hong Kong for the Chinese New Year period, be sure not to miss out on these major events that have become the city’s traditional way to celebrate.

Where to see fireworks during Chinese New Year in Hong Kong

The Chinese New Year fireworks display is the biggest fireworks spectacular of the year in Hong Kong. The 23-minute display takes place on the second day of Chinese New Year, 17 February, 2018, at 8 p.m. Last Year HK$8 million was spent on the display – so expect to be dazzled. Best vantage points include both sides of the harbour front in Tsim Sha Tsui, Central, Wan Chai, by boat on the water, or from The Peak.

Alternatively, skip the crowds by reserving a spot at a restaurant or bar with a harbour view. A number of restaurants with ‘front row seats’ are even offering special Chinese New Year fireworks menus to help you celebrate in style. Possibilities include Felix, located on the 28th floor of the Peninsula Hotel; Aqua, perched on the 29th floor of One Peking; and the two Michelin-starred Yan Toh Heen at the InterContinental.

Chinese New Year Fireworks – Saturday, February 17, 2018, at 8 p.m.

Where to see the Chinese New Year Night Parade in Hong Kong

The Chinese New Year Night Parade in Hong Kong is the liveliest and most colourful celebration of the year. In 2018, the theme is ‘Best Fortune…World Party’ and will take place on Chinese New Year day, 16 February, 2018, from 8 to 9:45 p.m.

The parade typically features a mix of colourful floats, marching bands, acrobats, lively dragons, traditional Chinese dancers, international troupes from all over the world, drummers, Chinese lions, and of course, firecrackers. Initially, street performers warm up the crowds from around 6 p.m. The parade route winds along Nathan Road, Salisbury Road, Canton Road, and Haiphong Road.

The show begins at 8 p.m. and lasts until 9:45 p.m. You can view the parade for free from the street. Pre-parade street performances begin at 6 p.m. Be sure to arrive early to get a good spot!

Chinese New Year Night Parade – Friday 16 February, 2018, from 8 to 9:45 p.m.

Chinese New Year Parade Hong Kong
Chinese New Year Night Parade in Hong Kong | © Michael Elleray/Flickr

Chinese New Year Race Day

Horse racing continues to draw the biggest sporting crowds in Hong Kong, and Chinese New Year Race Day is the most popular of them all. The Sha Tin Racecourse pulls out all the stops for the 100,000 plus fans that turn out for this annual event. In addition to those having a flutter on the races, there are traditional lion dances, performances, and a whole host of entertainment. The Chinese New Year Cup is the featured race.

General admission to the event is HK$10. Tourists with their passports on hand can gain access to the Members Enclosure for HK$130.

Chinese New Year Race Day – Sunday, 18 February, 2018, 12:30 noon – 6:00 p.m. (Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.)

The Sha Tin Racecourse on Chinese New Year Race Day
The Sha Tin Racecourse on Chinese New Year Race Day | © Michael Elleray/Flickr

How to say ‘happy new year’ in Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, where Cantonese is the official language, the common way to say ‘happy new year’ is ‘gong hei fat choy’, which literally means ‘wishing you great happiness and prosperity’.

Things to do before the New Year arrives

Clean your home. Chinese custom dictates that you should give your home a thorough cleaning in the days leading up to New Year’s Day, in order to get rid of the accumulated bad luck of the past year and prepare for a fresh start in the year to come. Just be sure to get all your cleaning done before New Year’s Day — the superstition is that if you sweep on the first day of the lunar calendar, you might accidentally sweep away your good luck!

Decorate. After you’re done cleaning, it’s time to brighten up your home with Chinese New Year decorations such as scarlet posters and banners, Chinese knots, and images of the dog, this year’s Chinese zodiac animal. An endless array of decorative items and trinkets can be found in any of Hong Kong’s numerous street markets, including Tai Yuen Street Market in Wan Chai, Ladies Market in Mong Kok, and the Temple Street Night Market in Yau Ma Tei.

Chinese New Year decorations | © Geneva Vanderzeil/Flickr
Chinese New Year decorations | © Geneva Vanderzeil/Flickr

Visit a flower market. Between Saturday, February 22, and Friday, February 16, you’ll have the opportunity to visit one of the pop-up flower markets in the city, where you’ll find stalls selling decorations, flowers, and potted plants. While all sorts of colorful flowers will be sold, orchids, peonies, and potted orange trees are the most popular because they are considered auspicious. We recommend visiting the market at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, or the one at Fa Hui Park in Mong Kok.

Other activities

In addition to the major events listed above, there will be a number of smaller, ongoing events happening throughout the city.

Lantern displays. Think there’s nothing special about a lantern? You’d be surprised. The lanterns exhibited during Chinese New Year are massive, colorful, and come in all shapes and sizes. The lantern carnival at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza take place, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., on 2nd March, 2018. For a complete list of lantern carnivals, click here.

Chinese New Year lantern display at the Cultural Centre Piazza | © Ian Glen/Flickr
Chinese New Year lantern display at the Cultural Centre Piazza | © Ian Glen/Flickr

Lion dances at Ngong Ping Village. Between February 16 and February 23, traditional lion dances will take place twice a day at Ngong Ping Village Square on Lantau Island. The first show starts at 12:30 p.m. and the second show starts at 3:30 p.m. From the village, be sure to visit the adjacent Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery if you haven’t had a chance to before.

Pray for good luck. Chinese New Year is the busiest time for Hong Kong’s temples; locals flock to these places of worship to give thanks to the gods for the past year and pray for good fortune in the new one.

Some of the largest and most popular temples include Wong Tai Sin Temple, Man Mo Temple, and the Lam Tsuen Wishing Trees, where the floats from the Night Parade will be on display.

Sally Gao also contributed to this article.

Worshippers burning incense at Man Mo Temple | © shankar s./Flickr
Worshippers burning incense at Man Mo Temple | © shankar s./Flickr