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Late Jan

Chinese New Year Parade in Hong Kong

One of the best places in the world to celebrate Chinese New Year has to be the island of Hong Kong. Dragon dancers are the star attraction, as the annual Chinese New Year Parade hits Wan Chai Harborfront with a cavalcade of colorful floats, accompanied by performers from all over the world.

Decorated floats, performers, street entertainers, music and dance take over the picturesque harborfront, spilling out into the streets throughout the city.  Fireworks over Victoria Harbor mark the end of the parade.

There are also amazing flower displays all over the city, with other parades and markets taking place in Victoria Park on Hong Kong Island and Fahui Park in Mong Kok on Kowloon.

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Early Feb

Spring Lantern Festival (Yuen Siu)

The people of Hong Kong believe that during Full Moon in February (the first of the Chinese New Year) various spirits swoop above the ground. To avoid being snatched by the ghosts, hundreds of locals take to the streets with lanterns, representing everything from dragons to Michael Jackson. 

Many believe that the lanterns help guide the spirits back to the world of the dead safely, while a separate tradition tells of the Jade Emperor (the Emperor of Heaven), who wanted to exact revenge on a man who had killed his precious goose. The Emperor planned to torch the man's property but a good spirit warned the man, telling him to hang lanterns out at the first full moon of the year: the Emperor thought the place was already on fire and left it alone.

All of these traditions celebrate good fortune, and the self-made lanterns often come with riddles attached.

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Early Feb-Early Mar

Hong Kong Arts Festival

The Hong Kong Arts Festival - first held in 1973 - is the premier arts event of the year, featuring dance, visual art, theatre and music. Each spring a wealth of international artists, as well as the best Asian and local performers, makes this one of the most vibrant and exciting festivals in the world.

Highlights for 2006 include a nod in the direction of Mozart's 250th birthday. Iván Fischer brings the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment for two mostly Mozart concerts (3 & 4 March), while

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Late March-Early Apr

Hong Kong Sevens.

International Sevens was born in 1975 as a result of an idea of the then-chairman of the HKRFU and an imaginative marketing executive - with the first game actually taking place on 28 March 1976. Initially the Twickenham-based RFU were dismissive of the tournament, so it began life as a club competition, but was soon legitimized as a national tour and has grown in stature ever since. Hong Kong's glamorous surroundings only add to the excitement of the event.

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Early April

Tomb Sweeping Day

China's Tomb Sweeping Day, every year in April, is a day for worshipping ancestors; people visit the graves of their departed relatives and burn "ghost money" (money for use in the afterworld) in their honor.

Also called Qingming Day, this tradition is observed by millions of Chinese all across the world. It has its roots partly in the half-legendary huge resettlements that were ordered during the Ming Dynasty, when thousands of families were ordered first to Konglong county before being sent to their final destinations.

Thus, to this day, many Chinese believe their ancestors came from that county. The event also appeals to many overseas Chinese who identify their own diaspora with that of the people who suffered under the Ming rulers.

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Early April

The Clear and Bright Festival (Ching Ming)

This ancient Chinese festival takes place 106 days after the Winter Solstice in the cemeteries of Hong Kong, where families pay respect to their ancestors with various offerings.

One of the most important parts of Chinese culture (and one which has been all but forgotten in Western society) is the veneration and honoring of the dead. To honor your dead you must provide a long line of family, hence the importance of the family in Chinese culture. Among the offerings, "spirit money" (paper money) is often burnt, and it is said that during Ching Ming some true devotees actually scrub the bones of their loved ones.

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Early–Mid April

Hong Kong International Film Festival

The Hong Kong International Film Festival is a large, non-competitive event playing over the Easter holidays at a number of venues. With over 200 films every year, the program is large enough to accommodate a focus on Hong Kong cinema as well as the usual international festival-circuit fare. It also includes retrospectives, an award for upcoming Asian directors and a number of themed exhibitions, gala presentations and other events. In 2006 there are special celebrations for the 30th festival.

The festival was founded in 1977 by the Hong Kong Urban Council and responsibility passed to the newly-formed Leisure and Cultural Services Department in 2000. As well as showcasing the astonishingly creative and energetic local cinema industry, the retrospective section brings out an annual themed program of treasures from the archives. The festival is non-competitive and is split into four main sections; Asian Cinema, Hong Kong Panorama, World Cinema and the archive section.

The mainstay of the festival consists of local and international premières, adhering to the trademark combination of Asian Vision and Global Vision as the twin strands. For the 30th festival, to encourage filmmaking at university, there is the Fresh Wave Joint-U Short Film Competition which, following workshops at the end of 2005, will see student films shown at the festival.

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Early May

Tin Hau Festival

Tin Hau is the Chinese goddess of the sea, making her particularly significant to the sea-dominated city of Hong Kong. The fishing town of Sai Kung is at the heart of the celebrations for the goddess' birthday, although the festivities reverberate around the towns and villages of Hong Kong.

Every year traditional rites are observed at community temples, but more eye-catching are the colorful parades of floats, fireworks and lion dances and the sailing of hundreds of multicolored junks and sampans in Victoria Bay and beyond. Tin Hau's birthday is celebrated to bring safety, fine weather and full nets to the fishermen, who adorn their boats with colorful ribbons, offerings and other symbols of devotion.

The boats, clad in gaily-colored decorations and streaming pennants, make their way toward the many Tin Hau temples. Most of the flotilla heads towards the biggest temple, Da Miao (the Great Temple) in Joss House Bay in the New Territories. There they make their offerings, pay their respects and pray for a bountiful and safe year ahead.

The origins of Tin Hau are diffuse but popular belief is that she was born the sixth and youngest daughter of a Sung dynasty (AD 960-1279) mandarin named Mo Niang, lived in a small fishing village called Pu Tien in the Fukien Province on the south-eastern coast of China and is supposed to have endeared herself to sailors from a very young age through an uncanny ability to predict the weather. Born in the eighth year of Emperor Yuen Yan's reign (1098), it wasn't until early days of the Ch'ng dynasty (1644-1912), about 600 years after her death, that the benevolent Emperor K'ang-hsi (1654-1722) canonized her with the title "Queen of Heaven" and mother of all boat people and sailors.

Tin Hau is supposed to quell the seas, allowing bountiful hauls for fishermen and keeping sickness away from all seafaring types. It is said that Mo Niang could walk on water if supplied with a straw mat, so elaborate mats are woven as offerings for this day.

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Mid May

Bun Festival

Cheung Chau is Hong Kong's largest fishing island and each May sees floating children and towers of lucky buns; the world's only Bun Festival.

The origins of this Taoist rite can be traced back hundreds of years to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), when Cheung Chau was devastated by a storm, followed by an outbreak of the plague which claimed many lives. Believing the island to be haunted, the locals performed a sacrificial ceremony to placate the Gods and pray for their favor. The festival is now timed to coincide with Buddha's birthday.

No Chinese festival is complete without lion and dragon dancers, but this island's quirk is the children dressed as mythological and modern heroes suspended above the crowds on the tips of swords and paper fans. They form the float procession of Piaose and are all safely secured within steel frames, though they appear to glide through the air. The airborne children hardly move and their eyes can be half closed, not because they are in a state of Nirvana but because they are often drugged so as to endure the ceremonies. Though such treatment of children may be disturbing to a Western mindset it is such a unique festival that anthropologists are drawn to it every year and parents consider it a great honour for their offspring to be part of the procession.

At a quarter to midnight a paper effigy of the King of the Ghosts is set on fire, giant incense sticks are lit and the buns are harvested and distributed to the villagers, who, delighted to be sharing in this auspicious good fortune, celebrate late into the night.

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Mid May

Birthday of Lord Buddha

Buddha's birthday is celebrated throughout Hong Kong (and officially, since 1999), though prime sites are the Po Lin monastery on Lantau Island (home to the world's largest seated outdoor Buddha), the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery in Sha Tin and the Miu Fat Monastery in Tuen Mun.

Worshippers show their devotion by bathing the Buddha statues and feasting on sumptuous vegetarian dishes. Though a day of great reverence, non-Buddhist visitors are welcome and it is an opportunity to visit Hong Kong's Buddhist monks and monasteries.

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Mid May

Tam Kung Birthday Festival

Tam Kung is an important patron deity of seafarers. His birthday festival, which coincides with Buddha's, is celebrated with considerable devotion and fanfare at the Tam Kung Temple, built in 1905 in the Shau Kei Wan district on Hong Kong Island. Shau Kei Wan is also known as Ah Kung Yam, or "Ancestor's Rocky Hill".

Tam Kung is a local Taoist boy-god said to control the weather. He can calm storms by throwing peas into the air, or cause them by throwing water. His cult is strong in coastal areas like Hong Kong and Macau. Little is known about this cryptic figure except that he was of human origin, born in Guangdong province during the Ching dynasty, and that he is the object of devotion and veneration for boatsmen and seafarers in the region, who invoke him for the protection of their livelihood.

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Early June

Tuen Ng (Dragon Boat Festival)

These dragon boat races were first held in 1976 as part of the 2000-year-old Tuen Ng Festival and have now become an annual event. Over 100 teams from across the globe participate in the waters around Hong Kong and its islands. After the locals have raced, the event becomes an international open. The main competitions take place on Shing Mun River, at Sha Tin in the New Territories.

The teams race the elaborately-decorated boats to the beat of heavy drums. The boats, more than ten meters in length, have ornately-carved and painted dragon heads and tails.   Each carries a crew of 20-22 paddlers. Sitting two abreast, with a steersman at the back and a drummer at the front, the paddlers are urged on by the pounding drums and the roar of the crowds.

The festival commemorates the death of a popular Chinese national hero, Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in the Mi Lo River during the 3rd century BC, in protest against a corrupt government. Legend has it that as locals attempted to rescue him, they beat drums to scare fish away and threw dumplings into the sea to keep the fish from eating his body. During the festival period, people eat rice-and-meat dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves and many look forward to swimming, or even simply dipping their hands in the water, to symbolize trying to save him.

There is also a  Bathtub Race:  one of the most fun-filled competitions of the day. Each bathtub can have two paddlers and handsome prizes are promised to the winners.

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Mid July

Hong Kong Book Fair

A high-profile event in the Hong Kong calendar, the annual Book Fair at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center goes well beyond books and into the realms of electronic publishing, educational software and audio-visual learning aids.  There are journals, newspapers and, of course, a variety of books from a wide range of Hong Kong publishers.

There are more than 350 exhibitors and visitor numbers reach an impressive 500,000 over the course of the event.  The festivities and reading materials are in Chinese.

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Mid August

Hong Kong Food Expo

Organized by the Trade Development Council at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center, this annual expo celebrates and promotes the island's food industry to both trade and consumers. Visitors get to enjoy entertainment, demonstrations, food sampling, and kitchen tips during this five-day event.

Over 200 suppliers from Australia, the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan and the United States showcase their latest products. Included are gourmet and celebrity chefs' cooking demonstrations.

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Mid September

Mid-Autumn Moon Cake Festival

An ancient Chinese tradition, the Mid-Autumn Moon Cake Festival a time in which families gather to relax, give thanks, celebrate family unity and view the full moon, and a celebratory banquet is typically held at midnight.

During the festival people eat special yuek beng (moon cakes) containing any ingredients from ground lotus and sesame to various sugary fillings. In Shanghai red bean paste has always been a favorite filling for revelers.

Another feature of the festival is  the colored Chinese paper lanterns, traditionally in the shapes of animals, which decorate almost every house. Festival altars are also adorned with five dishes of round fruits:  apples, peaches etc., as these symbolize the moon, as well as family unity.

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Early December

Hong Kong Open Golf Championships

Set amidst the stunning scenery of Fanling, the Hong Kong Open Golf Championship is the longest-running professional sporting event, with many great players waiting to take up the challenge.

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