A Week of Autumn Celebrations in Hong Kong!

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Festivals, Global Culture

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!!

Larger-than-life lanterns descend on Victoria Park

Larger-than-life lanterns descend on Victoria Park

Sweeping strings of light float over Victoria Park during its annual Lantern Festival during the Mid-Autumn Lunar Festival

Sweeping strings of light float over Victoria Park during the annual Lantern Festival portion of the Mid-Autumn Lunar Festival

In past years, the mid-autumn festival was held to give thanks for a bountiful harvest and to reunite with long-lost family members. The latter of course retains relevance today, the former a bit less so. One of Hong Kong’s most important cultural celebrations, this year’s holiday was enjoyed mostly this past weekend in various forms around the city. The most prominent manifestations were the sprawling lantern festival in Victoria Park and the hotly intense Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance nearby, both modernized versions of festivals that have taken place for centuries – and huge draws for families, friends, and photographers alike.

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A display of (slightly modernized) traditional dresses in Victoria Park to add an additional element of cultural interest

A display of (slightly modernized) traditional dresses in Victoria Park add an additional element of cultural interest

Lunar influence over these rituals is strong, as the full moon’s round shape indicates unity in Chinese culture. Quite poetic indeed that the supermoon phenomenon happened to coincide with this year’s festival.

Lanterns, 'shooting stars', and the remnants of the supermoon make a timely appearance during the lunar festival

Lanterns and ‘shooting stars’ – and this year’s supermoon makes a timely appearance during the lunar festival

But even without the supermoon, the celebrations are fascinating. The larger-than-life lanterns in some instances veer toward kitschy, and Victoria Park quickly devolves into a sweeping landscape of back-lit selfies, but somehow it all remains charming – if for no other reason than to see all the kids (big and small) smile.

A clever segmented dragon lantern display at the Lantern Festival in Victoria Park

A clever segmented dragon lantern display at the Lantern Festival in Victoria Park

A giant lantern display

A giant lantern display

Kitschy but still charming lanterns

Kitschy but still charming lanterns

A dragon lantern guards the other lanterns

A dragon lantern guards the other lanterns

Lantern love...

Lantern love…

Checking out some handmade lanterns at the Lantern Festival

Checking out some handmade lanterns at the Lantern Festival

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Lanterns for all ages of 'kids'

Lanterns for all ages of ‘kids’

The fire dragon dance a few minutes’ walk away in Tai Hang is a hypnotic, chaotic affair, as the namesake beast crafted from thousands of lit incense sticks burns and pulsates through Tai Hang in Causeway Bay like a beating heart set to the rhythmic percussion of drums. The men who make this dance happen take their job for the night pretty seriously, but with a hearty dose of fun (although I am starting to wonder why no women seem to be part of the dance). The dragon himself, with his serpentine body, is entrancing. But I also find observing the spectators at this event to be just as entertaining.

Entrance to Fire Dragon Path

Entrance to Fire Dragon Path

The pulsating Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance

The pulsating Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance

Little spectators at the Fire Dragon Dance

Little spectators at the Fire Dragon Dance

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Part of the fun is when the dancers dismantle the dragon at the end of the night and give out handfuls of the incense sticks to eager observers, a gesture of good will and good wishes. And as much as I enjoy the pomp and circumstance of the dance itself, I find the quiet right after it ends to be immensely satisfying. One of my favorite, simple pleasures is wandering the back alleys of Tai Hang after most have left the area post-dance. There is this feeling of peace, as incense smoke still faintly hangs in the air, hearty partyers stay out just a little longer to have another drink with friends, the neon signs of the eclectic storefronts burn bright, but all else is dark. I love it. It’s like some kind of dark, urban romance. Like ambling through a Wong Kar-wai film.

Post-dance beers in the alleys of Tai Hang

Post-dance beers in the alleys of Tai Hang

The quiet after the storm in Tai Hang

The quiet after the storm in Tai Hang

National Day, celebrated on October 1, really belongs to the mainland, as it celebrates the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. There are of course ongoing challenges to and protests against what some believe is the continuing or growing influence of the mainland on Hong Kong. So not everyone feels this is an occasion to commemorate. Despite these sentiments, Hong Kong and Macau take the day off and polish it off with fireworks (of course).

Fireworks over Wan Chai in Hong Kong on China's National Day

Fireworks over Wan Chai in Hong Kong on China’s National Day

I hope that you and yours enjoyed the holidays this week! Or at least the imagery..

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All images © 2015 deb fong photography

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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!

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