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Lantern making | © tfkt12/Flickr
Lantern making | © tfkt12/Flickr
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How to Celebrate the Chinese Lantern Festival in Hong Kong

Picture of Sally Gao
Updated: 31 January 2017
Chinese New Year celebrations culminate in the Lantern Festival, a 2,000-year-old tradition that falls on the 15th day of the lunar calendar. While spectacular lantern displays serve as the main attraction, there are plenty of other events and traditions that await for those who wish to join the festivities in Hong Kong.

Lantern Display

Roam around the thematic lantern display, held annually at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza by the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront. These won’t be the typical red lanterns you probably have in mind — expect to be wowed instead by a variety of colourful and sculptural artworks lit from within.

The theme of the 2017 exhibition is “Blooming Love of Phoenixes”. The spectacular lanterns will light up the night between 6pm and 11pm from January 20th to February 19th.

Lantern display | © Edwin Lee/Flickr
Lantern display | © Edwin Lee/Flickr

New Year Lantern Carnivals

A number of Lunar New Year Lantern Carnivals will take place across the city, featuring lantern displays, folk songs, dances, game stalls and acrobatic performances. Admission to all of the events is free of charge.

The biggest and most accessible carnival will take place at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza, right next to the main lantern exhibition. February 10th is “Youth Night”, featuring Chinese folk dance, Chinese music, a cappella and European folk dance. On February 11th, there will be more performances of songs, dances and acrobatics, as well as demonstrations of folk crafts including paper cutting, “double brush” calligraphy (a form of calligraphy where both hands are used simultaneously), and mahjong tile engraving.

In addition, the Lantern Making exhibition runs from February 9th to February 14th each night between 6pm and 11pm.

Lantern making | © tfkt12/Flickr
Lantern making | © tfkt12/Flickr

There are two additional Lantern Carnivals planned aside from the Tsim Sha Tsui fiesta. One of them will be held at Sha Tsui Road Playground, Tsuen Wan with the theme “Love Is All Around” — a reference to the fact that the Lantern Festival is also considered the Chinese Valentine’s Day. In the past, unmarried women weren’t usually permitted to go out, so the yearly lantern carnival served as a rare chance to find a suitor. In time, the carnival became known as a matchmaking gala.

In addition to stand-up comedy routines, martial arts, and beatboxing performances, the Tsuen Wan carnival features a tea workshop, palm reading sessions, a make-a-wish corner and a “lantern riddle quiz”. This traditional activity, which has its roots in the Song Dynasty (960–1279), involves guessing riddles attached to lanterns in exchange for a small prize.

“Youth Night” takes place on February 9th, featuring dance and music from local youth groups.

Alternatively, head to North District Park in the New Territories for a delightful mix of modern and traditional arts. Circus performances, Cantopop, Chinese costume try-ons and lion dances are on the agenda. “Youth Night” is on February 11th, featuring K-pop inspired hip hop and break dance, among other performances.

Eat Tongyuen

Eating sweet dumpling balls called tongyuen (known in Mandarin as tangyuan or yuanxiao) is an essential Lantern Festival tradition. The round, sticky desserts are made from glutinous rice and stuffed with various fillings, including sesame paste, sugar, bean paste, peanuts and walnuts, to name a few. The roundness of tongyuen symbolizes family reunion and togetherness. Make them from scratch or, alternatively, buy a pack of frozen ones from the supermarket.