Hidden Festival in Hong Kong: Dashain

Cover photo : (Credit/Snowleopardtrek)

While all of us in Hong Kong were getting ready for Mid-Autumn Festival with our mooncakes and lanterns, did you come across people on the street with splotches of red rice paste on their foreheads and barley sprouts clipped on to their ears? Or does the sound of this visualization seems bizarre to you?

Along side of Hong Kong’s locally celebrated holiday, a fifteen-day celebration of “Dashain” is rejoiced by Nepalese all around the world. With almost seventeen thousand Nepalese marking their residence here since the Gurkha Days, Hong Kong is no exception. Dashain can be summarized by two main concepts: blessings and having fun!

Count Your Blessings

Photo : Tika and money ready for the younger ones.

Going back to our forehead paste and sprout accessories, these two elements are actually the most crucial parts on the tenth day of the country’s most-anticipated festival. The red paste, known as “tika”, is a mixture of vermillion powder, rice and yoghurt. After confirming the most auspicious time and direction of sitting position (similar to a feng shui concept), the elders of the house put tika on the foreheads of the younger ones. This act symbolizes the bestowing of wealth, health and longevity. For the Nepali people, more tika means more loved ones, which is why, the messier the better.

 

Photo : Getting blessings through tika from the elders.

As for the barley sprouts, known as “jamara”, the seeds are planted in a clean and pure area of the house on the first day of Dashain. By the ninth day, the yellowish-green “jamara” is ready to be plucked and used as a form of well wishes. It is said that the seedlings of this symbolic plant hold the Goddess’ blessings. Last but not definitely least, family members get money and gifts from the elders and relatives—things just got more exciting, right?

 

Photo : Jamara ready on a platter for Dashain.

But living away from homeland can have its lows, especially during festivals when friends and families back home are spending quality time bonding over food and rituals.

“My first Dashain away from home was about 5 years ago, I felt pretty bad then thinking what my family were doing, wishing I were there” says Nischal Prasad Nhuchhe Pradhan, 24, finishing his MPhil in Civil Engineering at the University of Science and Technology in Hong Kong. “Now that I’m busy with work and research, I don’t even know when Dashain started and ended”

Is It Party Time Yet?

All the traditions and ceremonies may be boring at times for younger children, who just want to go out and enjoy the holidays with their own friends. Well, Nepalese people have their own unique concept of partying in these fifteen days. Everyone’s favourite way of having a good time with friends and families is playing cards throughout the night. This is one of the few times when gambling isn’t frowned upon, and is in fact encouraged! What starts off with an innocent betting of two dollars can eventually lead to accumulation of hundreds of dollars.

Photo : Will he win the game ?

“I think we bonded more than we would have if we sat there talking and eating,” says Arlin L Rai, a Nepali University student in Hong Kong. She shares her first time experience of celebrating Dashain, with the Hindu festival not being too common in her Christian circle. “Just that one day, we could gamble without any stigma,” she adds. “I think I became addicted to Teen Patti (a Nepali version of card games) after that day.”

Meanwhile back at home, for the younger ones who are little too young to be betting with their Dashain cash, there’s one thing that brings them out running to their front yard: giant bamboo swings.

You think the metal swings at your local is exciting? Perhaps not so much compared to the enormous bamboo swings the Nepalese hand-build in Dashain. There’s no better way to represent the community spirit of fun and vividness the festival brings than swinging in a “ping” that sends you soaring up in the air and brings you back with the same rush of adrenaline. If you do time your visit to Nepal within this beautiful time of the year, the local kids will be more than ecstatic to let you have a go. So ping away!

 

Photo : (Credit/EverestUncensored) Kids waiting for their turns to play on the giant bamboo swing.

Hong Kong is a multicultural hub with ethnicities and cultures from all over the world. Cultural appreciation is slowly being represented in this fast-paced city. Perhaps we are just a few more years away from seeing a gigantic bamboo swing in the middle of Victoria Park!

 

Writer: Sumichhya Gurung

Copy-editor: Ningsang

Editor: Samantha

Online team: Cynthia

 

 

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