How Hong Kong People Celebrate Their Spring Lantern Festival

Spring lantern festival is on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar. It is the end of the Chinese New Year’s taboo and the New Year’s holiday. It used to be celebrated as Chinese Valentine’s Day, when young men and women went out to see the lanterns on the streets. Young lovers could meet each other at the lantern exhibition on the streets.

The lantern festival is important to Chinese people because family members usually get together on that day, because it is the first full moon night of the lunar new year, and the full moon stands for the union of the family members. There are different traditions to celebrate spring lantern festival in China, and also around the globe. This is how Hong Kong people celebrate their lantern festival.


  1. Eating sweet rice dumplings

This is the tradition that most Chinese people follow. There are different kind of rice dumplings: some are savoury, and some are sweet. However, during the lantern festival, Hong Kong people only have sweet rice dumplings. The most traditional sweet rice dumplings are filled with sweet black sesame, mashed red bean or peanuts. People usually boil sweet rice dumplings and serve them in a bowl of soup. Some families like to add some flavour in the soup like brown sugar, ginger or dried osmanthus.

Sweet rice dumplings are round, which stands for the union of the family members. In Hong Kong, all family members have sweet rice dumplings around the table to celebrate this holiday. The reason for this is to wish for a sweet year, just like the sweet rice dumplings.

Sweet rice dumplings. Photo: Ivy Li.


  1. Lantern exhibition

Lanterns are the essence of the holiday. In Hong Kong, there are different kinds of lantern exhibitions. Some public estates and communities hold the lantern festival for people to enjoy. Lanterns come in bright colors and different shapes, but the animal lantern of that year’s zodiac sign will appear for sure. This year, there must be lanterns in the shape of dog.

There is also going to be a lantern carnival and display held by the government in Tsim Sha Tsui, New Territories West and Wast. Public are able to enter for free and enjoy the lion dance, learn traditional art and craft, and see different lanterns.

The lantern exhibition is a good opportunity for family reunions since it is a good activity for all generations.

Different types of lanterns. Photo by Republica used with permission).
  1. Receiving/ Giving Red Pockets (Lai See)

During the Chinese New Year, children receive a lot of Lai See (lucky money), which is a symbol of good luck for the following year and a hope to earn more money.  In comparison to mainland China, in Hong Kong, children are not allowed to open the lai see. The lantern festival, as the end of the New Year festival, is when the lai see packets can finally be opened. It is the best day for children because they can finally use their lai see money to buy something they want.

Lai Sees. Photo by Wynne Leung.

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