Kung Hei Fat Choi! That’s how you say ‘Happy New Year!’ in Hong Kong!

Chinese New Year, or the Lunar New Year, is the biggest, most important event in Hong Kong’s calendar, and an amazing time to be in town.

This year (2020) is the Year of the Rat, and the official festival dates are 25–27 January, which are also national holidays.

About Chinese New Year in Hong Kong

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 and well worth visiting.

Red is the most lucky colour, and you’ll see it everywhere, from the small lai see money envelopes to the lovely lanterns hung all over town. Shops will be chock-a-block with decorations, including banners to hang on your door, and other symbols for good luck and prosperity for the coming year.

In addition, the major attractions in Hong Kong—from the Big Buddha to Hong Kong 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 Chinese New Year events

There are three major annual events that should not be missed during this three-day holiday:

Chinese 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.

hong kong chinese new year
The view from Tsim Sha Tsui, looking towards Central | Photo by iStock.com/YiuCheung

For a full guide on where and how to best enjoy the fireworks, check out our comprehensive guide to Chinese New Year Fireworks.

International Chinese New Year Carnival

This year marks the 25th year of the Cathay Pacific International Chinese New Year festival, which traditionally has featured the incredible night parade in Tsim Sha Tsui. However, to mark the Silver Jubilee, this year instead of the night parade there will be a huge four-day carnival.

The streets of Tsim Sha Tsui will explode into a sea of colour, with floats, elaborate costumes, lion and dragon dances, drummers, acrobats, and performers from all around the world putting on a fantastic spectacle. Stay tuned for further details as they become available.

night parade tsim sha tsui
Photo by Hong Kong Tourism Board

Flower markets

The flower markets, which open up especially for Chinese New Year, bring some beautiful colours into Hong Kongers’ homes and businesses. You’ll notice lots of auspicious plants on sale, especially the bright orange mandarins and tangerines, delicate orchids and peach blossoms, pomelos, lucky bamboo, and Chinese peonies. The flower markets open about a week before the official holiday, with the biggest one being held in Victoria Park in Causeway Bay. The park will also be full of stalls selling special treats and snacks for the new year.

hong kong chinese new year
Victoria Park’s popular Flower Market | Photo by iStock.com/winhorse

Other popular events

Chinese New Year Race Day

After the fireworks, the crowds head north to the Sha Tin Racecourse 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 11 am.

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. 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. Victoria Park also holds a huge Lantern Festival, with different themes and decorations every year, and lots of fun entertainment.

Visiting a temple

Two temples in particular are full to the brim during Chinese New Year, both of which are found on Kowloon side. Worshippers flock to Wong Tai Sin Temple and Che Kung Temple to pray for their families, for good health, for their ancestors, and for prosperity in the coming year. It can get crowded, but it’s a very interesting time to visit a temple and see lots of incense being lit, and fortune telling.

Above all, Chinese New Year is a time for families to get together, take a break from work, eat special meals and reconnect. As a tourist, you can enjoy the great atmosphere, buy some special souvenirs, peruse the flower markets, and maybe even light some incense for a happy and healthy Year of the Rat.