The Chinese New Year has come and the Year of the Horse has officially begun. I was lucky enough to be in Hong Kong during the celebrations and got a first hand look at how the Chinese celebrate their biggest holiday of the year.
Hong Kong is an immediately impressive metropolis. As the bus makes its way from the airport on Lantau island to the mainland district of Kowloon, the incomprehensible scope of the city becomes quickly apparent. Outside the core of Hong Kong lies a virtual city of shipping containers and cranes neatly stacked in the tens of thousands forming streets and alleys all of their own. A kaleidoscopic patchwork of metal crates coming and going to the major ports of the world.
Between shipping and finance, this is one of the most important cities in the world. Together with New York and London, Hong Kong controls the global economic system. But for the first few days of the Lunar New Year, most of the city takes a break, a long breath, and celebrates the new year.
One of the highlights of ringing in the Lunar New Year in Hong Kong is the massively impressive fireworks display that erupts over Victoria Harbour. At 8pm, the skies lit up for almost 30 minutes of spectacular fireworks, some exploding in the shapes of hearts, to the delight of the crowds. Most of the downtown streets in Kowloon were shutdown to accommodate the hordes that stream down to the waterfront.
It’s undoubtedly one of the best fireworks shows anywhere in the world, with over 6,000 kilograms (13,200 pounds) of explosives lighting up the night sky over Hong Kong’s iconic skyline. Traditionally, fireworks were used to scare off evil spirits. 6,000 kilograms most certainly ought to do the trick.
If you do go to Hong Kong during this time (or even mainland China or South Korea for that matter) understand that the city will be in a state of partial closure. Most people take time off, shut down their shops, and head home. In China this leads to the largest migration of humans in the world as families reunite in their hometowns to celebrate. Over 130 million people all moving at once. I highly recommend the documentary Last Train Home for its intense, and heartbreaking, look at what people put themselves through each year just for some time with their loved ones.