Chinese New Year is the biggest, most important event in Hong Kong’s calendar, and an amazing time to be in town.
About Chinese New Year in Hong Kong
This year is the Year of the Pig, and the official festival dates are February 5th to 7th, 2019, which are also national holidays.
In the weeks leading up to Chinese New Year you’ll notice preparations taking place, with shops, malls, businesses and homes getting ready for the big day. Decorating your home with fresh flowers and fruit is considered auspicious, so lively flower markets are in full bloom from January 31st until February 5th, and well worth visiting.
In addition, the major attractions in Hong Kong—from the Big Buddha to Disneyland to Ocean Park—will all have their own special Chinese New Year events going on, meaning that everywhere you go, you’ll get that feeling of excitement in the air.
Major Hong Kong Chinese New Year events
That said, there are three major annual events that should not be missed during this three-day holiday:
February 5th: Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Chinese New Year Night Parade
The streets of Tsim Sha Tsui explode into a sea of color, with massive floats, elaborate costumes, lion and dragon dances, drummers, acrobats, and performers from all around the world putting on a fantastic spectacle. At 6pm in front of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, there is a pre-parade warm up to get people into the spirit, and the official parade begins at 8pm, following a route around Canton Road, Nathan Road, and Haiphong Road.
The event is free and incredibly crowded, so you’ll want to get there a bit early to get a spot on the sidewalks. Alternatively, you can also buy tickets to sit in the spectator stands from the Tourism Office at the Star Ferry Pier, but these are sold on a first-come-first-served basis, so snap them up fast!
February 6th: New Year Fireworks
Victoria Harbour traffic comes to a standstill as one of the largest fireworks displays in the world takes place. Large ships park in the middle of Victoria Harbour to release the fireworks, so that people on both sides of the harbour can see the show.
On the Hong Kong Island side, people line up along the waterfront of Central all the way to Tamar Park and Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai, though you can also see the fireworks from Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park in Sheung Wan.
On Kowloon side, the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade has the most unbeatable view, but you’ll have to get there hours in advance to get a good spot. An alternative spot is the West Kowloon Cultural District, or the Hung Hom Promenade to the east.
There are a few alternative ideas to watching the fireworks without the crowds:
The first is to book a harbour cruise, such as the Aqua Luna, Star Ferry, or Watertours, and enjoy the spectacle from the comfort of a boat. Some of the cruises include dinner and drinks, which makes it a really fun night out.
The second is to go to one of the restaurants and bars in Hong Kong’s many, many skyscrapers, though usually you need to buy a ticket.
The third is to head for the hills, and watch the fireworks from Victoria Peak. If there are too many people by the Peak Tower and Peak Galleria, stroll a little bit to the Lugard Road Lookout.
February 7th: Chinese New Year Race Day
After the parade and the fireworks, the crowds head north to the Sha Tin Racetrack to try their luck at the special Chinese New Year horse races. With lots of festivities, performances and entertainment, such as live music and lion dances, this annual race day has a great holiday atmosphere—it’s just an added bonus if you actually win! It costs HK$10.00 for general admission, and the gates open at 11am.
Spring Lantern Festival
The Spring Lantern Festival is also an important part of Chinese New Year, as it marks the first full moon, and the end of the official festivities. This year’s Spring Lantern Festival falls on February 19th, with lantern festivals displaying this traditional Chinese art form. Again, a great place to see the lanterns is the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza, which is open to the public, with not only lanterns but live performances, music, and cultural activities. Read our guide to the Spring Lantern Festival for more information.
Writer’s note: As you may notice, we’ve mentioned ‘the crowds’ quite a few times in this article. This is because Chinese New Year is the largest human migration event on earth, with hundreds of millions of people traveling back to their hometowns, or taking trips. But don’t let that turn you off! Just be prepared for it, smile, and try to be flexible.
Kung Hei Fat Choi—Happy Chinese New Year!