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The Year Of The Tiger In Hong Kong

China - Chinese New Year, Hong Kong

Chinese New Year is celebrated around the globe but Hong Kong still lays claim to the world’s biggest party. The region’s two-week event — to usher in the Year of the Tiger — is a fusion of ancient customs and contemporary fun that includes a spectacular parade, performances, fireworks, flower markets, sporting events and tours.

The hoopla starts Feb. 14 when the Cathay Pacific International Chinese New Year Night Parade — with its ornate floats, marching bands, cheerleaders, acrobats, costumed characters, and of course, the Tiger mascot — weaves its way through Tsim Sha Tsui.

Organized by the Hong Kong Tourism Board, the parade was a 2007 “Best Value Entertainment Around the World” pick by Lonely Planet Bluelist. It continues to be a show-stopper with 40 troupes of performers this year.

About 18 groups are making their festival debut including such famous entertainers as the Notting Hill Carnival from the U.K., Morioka Sansa Odori Dance from Japan, the Arezzo Flag Wavers from Italy, and the Paris Firemen from France. Also appearing are Dance Ensemble Siverco from Russia, Tropidanza and the San Diego Chargers Girls from the U.S., and Tiger Bank from Switzerland.

As this year’s theme is Festive Hong Kong 2010 and the four seasons, the parade route will be lined with whimsical decorations — giant Chinese buns, pumpkins, Santa Claus — symbolizing the region’s Chinese and Western heritage and festivals.

After the parade, performances will take place — and the floats will be on display — from the second to the eighth day of the Lunar New Year in Tsim Sha Tsui, Sha Tin and Tai Po.

Flowers are integral to the celebrations and the colourful flower market is at its best. New Year’s blooms include fragrant narcissus and peonies for prosperity, plum blossoms to strengthen romance, tangerine plants for marital bliss, and kumquat trees for success in businesses.

As New Year is also a time for looking back, it is customary to give thanks for the past 12 months and pray for good fortune in the coming year. Visitors can share these traditions on a Fortune-Seeking Trip, joining the crowds as they make a pilgrimage to fortune tellers, visit temples to pray and, finally, spin the Wheel of Fortune and tie a wish on Wishing Trees.

Another custom is buying clothes and shoes to symbolize a fresh start. Everyone can join their Hong Kong friends in shopping — perhaps buying a cheongsam or silk padded coat in red to bring luck and ward off evil spirits.

New Year’s feasts include a whole fish, which represents abundance and togetherness; oysters, whose name in Chinese sounds like “good things,” sesame balls and oil dumplings for wealth. The latter, shaped like early gold ingots, are believed to bring unexpected fortunes.

MORE INFORMATION

The parade starts at 8 p.m. at Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza and proceeds along Canton Rd., Nathan Rd. and major arteries in Tsim Sha Tsui, stopping at two performing zones, before finishing at New World Centre. There are plenty of places for free viewing along the route. Stadium seats at the Cultural Centre Piazza are $24-$41.

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