Lunar New Year is like Christmas to the Chinese. It is the most important of all the festivals and is celebrated for two weeks. Unlike Western New Year, the Chinese New Year doesn’t seem to be all about the countdown to the new year, if not about the two weeks following the start of the new year. Just like during Western Christmas, we got some days off to celebrate the Year of the Dragon!
On the first day of the Lunar New Year, Monday 23th, I went to see the New Year’s Parade with some other exchange students. The parade would be in the evening, however, the time at which it was going to start was obscure. Some said 7pm, others 8.30. We ended up being there at 5.30pm already and the parade didn’t start until 9; and it was COLD! Keeping our spirits up, we chilled at an Irish pub for a while and afterwards snuggled up against the crowd to stay warm. The parade was preceded by the occasional inflatable dragon and some Hong Kong clubs that demonstrated their talent. Now I know that there’s a rope skipping club as well as a sliding club in Hong Kong, whose hobby is to, you guessed it, slide across the ground. Now you know of their existence too. So after all the rope skipping and sliding shows (yes, they repeated their repertoire a couple of times) the parade finally started.
Many Asian countries were represented in the parade by people dressed in the country’s traditional clothing and demonstrating folk dancing. There were some groups of people representing countries outside Asia, like Russia, Moldova and Brazil, don’t ask me why. There were also carriages representing companies and Chinese regions. Overall, this parade was quite an advertising bonanza.
In the second half of the parade, the dragons finally came by! There were also ‘lion dances’. Parade lions look similar to dragons, except they are much shorter and are only carried by two people, who are from HK martial arts teams.
Supposedly, the fireworks are the most important and impressive spectacle during the New Year. They were held on the second day of the New Year, Tuesday 24th. However, my friends and I thought they were quite disappointing. The fireworks weren’t synchronised at all. There weren’t even fireworks in funny shapes, which I thought Chinese people were so good at making. Anyway, we saw the fireworks from the balcony of the IFC, a large mall on HK Island, which did provide us with an impressive view of the water and Kowloon on the other side.
Besides this, I took advantage of my week off to join some people in a trip to the Big Buddha on Lantau Island. Lantau Island is the biggest island of Hong Kong and possesses gorgeous beaches and authentic villages.
The long trip to Po Lin Monastery was totally worth it. The Big Buddha I’m talking about is officially called the Tian Tan Big Buddha and it is one of the biggest seated Buddha’s in the world. It is 34 meters high, is entirely made out of bronze and is seated on bronze lotus, the Buddhist symbol of purity, on top of a hill. The Buddha is part of the Po Lin Monastery (‘Po Lin’ means ‘valuable lotus’), once a small hut founded by three monks, but now one of the most important Buddhist temples. At the monastery we had some lovely (cheap!) vegetarian dim sum, before we climbed the 268 steps to the Buddha. We were not allowed to enter the temple, because people were praying there. I still managed to get some nice pictures. At the back of the monastery, a Ten Thousand Buddhas Hall is under construction, as you can see in the picture.
The Buddha is indeed impressively large! It is surrounded by statues of Bodhisattvas, Buddhist saints. Traditionally, people would throw coins into their hands because they thought this would bring them luck. Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed to do that anymore.
Well, that’s all for now. Sorry for the picture overload: I had difficulty choosing between them! You can expect a post introducing my lovely flat mates this week, due to high demand 😛