Everything will be brought to a halt in Hong Kong for the three main days of Chinese New Year. The Chinese calendar is lunar-based, and the date of New Year changes from year to year; coincidentally, in 2010, it's Valentine's Day that brings the year to an end. The Year of the Ox is over, and it's time to welcome the Tiger. In the vast human anthill of Hong Kong they will do so in style.
Traditionally, things kick off with a big family dinner on New Year's Eve, the first day of the celebrations. Since homes in Hong Kong tend to be small, restaurants do a roaring business, with entire families eating together, the meals comprising dishes symbolising prosperity, longevity and good fortune.
Chinese culture is full of symbolism and superstition, and at this time of year many will consult the psychics and geomancers who shamelessly practise their business in the neighbourhood of such popular temples as Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin and Man Mo. The temples themselves will be brimming with people come to make their wishes for the coming year and beg the goodwill of gods and ancestors by burning incense and saying prayers in their honour.
Nothing is left to chance: the focus is on propitiating the gods, encouraging good luck and driving away bad. Houses are cleaned thoroughly before New Year, windows left open to let in good fortune and lights left on at night to frighten away demons. All sharp objects are put out of view so as not to cut the flow of good energy, and sweets and goodies are in abundant supply everywhere to ensure the sweetness of the year ahead.
Another deeply-rooted New Year tradition is the giving of fresh flowers and decorating the house with them, so markets such as Victoria Park and Fa Hui Park bustle in the run up to the celebrations. And small gifts of money - usually brand new bank notes - are made, tucked into the traditional lai see envelopes in the classic shades of red and gold, the colours of good luck. The phrase "Kung Hei Fat Choi!" is on everyone's tongues: it translates roughly as "Congratulations and be prosperous!" and confirms most people's focus on wealth and prosperity.
The streets of the city centre will come alive with parades of decorated floats, marching bands and spectacular choreographies particularly those of the lion and dragon dances which frighten away evil spirits. But the real highlight will be the spectacle of light and sound of the second day when, for around half an hour, fireworks synchronised with music light up the sky over Victoria Harbour Bay in an odd juxtaposition with the flashing neon forest of contemporary skyscrapers decked for the occasion with red ribbons and banners with messages of good wishes.
Cruises are organised on the bay, providing a perfect viewing platform to enjoy the fireworks display. The summit of Victoria Peak is another great vantage point; it offers stunning panoramic views at all times, but none quite so spectacular as the New Year extravaganza in this Asianepicentre of leisure and business, where colonial heritage, cutting-edge architecture and the latest fashions from the West meet and mix at breakneck speed.
Tips & suggestions
Where to stay
The Peninsula, with its fleet of Rolls Royce waiting at the gate for the exclusive use of guests, is the epitome of luxury in Hong Kong. There are plenty of other world class hotels, though, including the stylish W Hong Kong and the Intercontinental Hong Kong, where many of the rooms and the restaurants, including the newly renovated Pool Terrace, offer magnificent views of Victoria Harbour making them a perfect place to see in the Year of the Tiger.
Hong Kong Tourism
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