‘Mardi Gras’ in Hong Kong: It’s Not (Just) What You Think


I’ve joked a bit about the peeps of Hong Kong finding almost any conceivable reason to party (see my post on Halloween in HK). I still believe this – so when I heard that HK was going to have a Mardi Gras festival in Victoria Park this past weekend, I had to laugh a little.

Mardi Gras (French for ‘Fat Tuesday’) is traditionally a festival with religious ties, celebrated right before the beginning of the fasting Lent season. Associated celebrations have evolved into full-blown, city-wide parties, such as the world-famous, over-the-top Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Mardi Gras in New Orleans has also almost become synonymous with elaborate costumes and floats, binge drinking, and the now-infamous and somewhat inexplicable (but who needs a reason?) tradition of women flashing their breasts in exchange for festive beads.

But the Mardi Gras I witnessed here the other day was a bird of another color. Here, Mardi Gras is celebrated in November (not the traditional timeframe of February or March) and other than the general idea of costumes, face paint, and a couple parades, the version I witnessed bore no resemblance to the very ‘adult’ Mardi Gras you and I know from elsewhere. Here, it starts as a family-friendly, community gathering to celebrate the visual arts.


Mondrian re-interpreted…as fashion (sort of)

This year’s theme, ‘Gallery in Motion’, honored key artistic movements, such as Impressionism, Surrealism, and Cubism. Crafting their own costumes and giant puppets, ~600 children proudly sported their creations during the ‘Art Fun in Causeway Bay’ parade around and near Victoria Park.


A giant Van Gogh – I didn’t check to see if his famously removed right ear was true-to-life in this version of him











Over the course of the weekend, ~3500 kids and ~100,000 visitors packed Central Lawn, where various art and photo stalls and (mostly impromptu) dance performances kept everyone entertained – as did a cleverly placed video camera that projected festival-goers live on a giant screen. It’s universal…people really love to see themselves on screen!


_DSC7446\ _DSC7454




A budding photographer…for now, spotting for Dad

A budding photographer…for now, spotting for Dad


Unfortunately, I missed this year’s fresh addition of a night parade on Saturday, where the British artist group known as The Lantern Company displayed lantern puppets and illuminated costumes. Every year, this arts festival adds one new element, so stay tuned for next year’s feature.

High art? No. Lots of cute kids having fun with their families, friends, and art? Definitely. And while Hong Kong is not quite yet a hotbed of art, and there are sadly no lofty fine art institutions or museums here yet, there is an emerging art scene – peppered by a few pretty cool art galleries and even prestigious festivals including Art Basel, which visited HK for the first time earlier this year. What better way to keep that momentum going than to inspire children to be creative from a young age?





Truly a budding photographer…now where on earth did those digital cards go??

Truly a budding photographer…now where on earth did those digital cards go??







Despite appearances, not a torture device – mugging it for the camera (somewhat reluctantly for Mom and Dad)






Looking up to big sis’ (literally)





Contemplating some of the local artwork at the outdoor Arts in the Park gallery















Crafting for a great cause – impressively raising HIV/AIDS awareness, even among kids





A 'surreal' clean-up crew is all smiles (and lips)

A ‘surreal’ clean-up crew is all smiles (and lips)

Let's face it, parades and festivals are exhausting…

Let’s face it, parades and festivals are exhausting…

I have to say, this version of Mardi Gras was not at all what I expected. And I have to say, I really love the underlying message.

For those who find this all very disappointing and boring – well, you can also head to Lan Kwai Fong and drink it up at that area’s version of Carnival this Saturday (and Sunday) afternoon and night, if you like. It’s sure to be…well, more ‘adult’. Or would that be childish?


For more information on Arts in the Park Mardi Gras, click here.

For more information on Carnival in Lan Kwai Fong, click here.


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Globetrotter based in Hong Kong, travel and street photographer, Getty Images contributor, award-winning blogger of WanderFong.com - seeking true beauty in travel and life!

26 thoughts on “‘Mardi Gras’ in Hong Kong: It’s Not (Just) What You Think”

    • Thank you so much! Yes, it was a lovely festival – high-energy, colorful, loads of beautiful families having a wonderful time and enjoying the arts. A photographer’s dream 🙂


  1. You really take the most beautiful photos! I think the more I read of your posts, it becomes clear that we both share a very different view of HK, haha.


  2. Wonderful photographs! Can’t believe I missed this event, I had no idea there was such a thing in HK. You’ve captured the fun really well.


  3. these are some awesome photos! what an interesting interpretation of mardi gras.. it’s most certainly not what i think about when i think of NOLA’s mardi gras! i love how your photos are candid and vibrant. it appears as if your photography is effortless! i’m more of a writer than a photographer and i feel like capturing a good photo is so difficult.

    if you attended Carnival, please post pics/ share a recap! i had heard about it and almost went to check it out tonight but didn’t make it.


  4. Awesome pics… and looks like fun! But why call it mardi gras? I chanced upon the carnival at LKF… but aside from some food stalls out on the streets, it seemed like just another crazy LKF evening. What did you think?


    • Thank you! I agree, the Mardi Gras title, especially for the kids and arts festival, is pretty off base. I attended Carnival on both days, as well – and while a little bit closer to the Mardi Gras festivities (namely with the Brazilian parade), it also didn’t have too much likeness to traditional Mardi Gras celebrations. I think it’s a ‘branding’ thing 🙂 Trying to associate with those famous other parties and finding an excuse to party here!


      • Yeah that’s what Hong Kongers need… An excuse to party 😉 I didn’t know about the parade? Where do you get all you HK happenings info from? I really need to be more aware of what’s going on around here!


      • I usually check out HK Magazine, Time Out HK, and Sassy HK – while I don’t always agree with their reviews, they do know about all the upcoming events. Facebook also tends to list ‘suggested’ pages and posts that sometimes have interesting info.


  5. Pingback: ‘Carnival’ in the Kong! | hong kong fong

  6. Pingback: The More Humble Side of Hong Kong: Sketches of Mong Kok | hong kong fong

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