Before visiting Hong Kong for a holiday, travelers should be aware that there are a number of public holidays which serve as rest days for workers, which usually coincide with festivities to celebrate national special occasions. Many of these celebrations provide a unique opportunity to witness local traditions and customs in the country and are therefore a great time to visit Hong Kong.
The majority of foreign citizens are able to visit Hong Kong and enjoy its national holiday celebrations visa-free for short periods of stay, from between 7 up to 180 days. Indian citizens, however, are first required to apply for a Hong Kong PAR (pre-arrival registration) before traveling to the country. The approved Hong Kong PAR grants holders a maximum stay of 14 days in the country and is available through a simple online application, making it just as easy for Indian citizens to travel to Hong Kong to enjoy its yearly national festivities.
Many of the Hong Kong national holidays, such as the days following Lunar New Year, Labour Day, and National Day, are also designated as statutory holidays, meaning it is obligatory for employers to grant workers a day off. However, although some traditional shops and restaurants may close for the duration of the festivities, the majority of shops and restaurants in the major tourist districts will remain open during public holidays in Hong Kong.
Most Important Hong Kong Public Holidays
Those who are required to obtain a Hong Kong visa or PAR before they depart for the country may first wish to consult the calendar of public holidays, decide which most grab their interest, and plan their travel dates accordingly.
Celebrations such as the National Day of the People’s Republic of China allow foreign visitors to witness extravagant fireworks displays, concerts, and parades, in the vast Tian’anmen Square. Those looking for a more spiritual experience may want to visit during Buddha’s Birthday and take in the majestic Cheung Chau Bun Festival of Floating Colours.
Find below some of the other major public holidays in Hong Kong which visitors may want to consider including on their travel itinerary, depending on which time of year they choose to holiday in the country.
Lunar New Year
Lunar New Year is the first, and one of the biggest, national holidays on the Chinese calendar: although it officially runs for 3 days, it is often unofficially celebrated for up to 2 weeks. During this time, Hong Kong comes alive with massive festivities, including a huge fireworks display and international parade at Victoria Harbour.
It is also a fantastic time to witness some unique traditional practices, including the seasonal traditions of fortune-telling, throwing a note into a wishing tree, and the beating of the drum at the Che Kung temple at Sha Tin, which is said to bring good fortune for all of Hong Kong in the coming year.
Ching Ming Festival
This ancient festival is thought to date back around 2,500 years in Chinese history and is also known as the Festival for Tending Graves, or Tomb Sweeping Day. Traditionally, it is the one day designated in the year when families visit the graves of lost loved ones and ancestors to tidy up plots, light incense, and burn objects as offerings to the spirits. It is then customary for families to pour wine, make a food offering, and to share a meal over the gravesite in honor of their ancestors. Kite flying is also a popular pastime on this holiday.
Although perhaps not as exciting as some of the other, bigger national celebrations, the Ching Ming Festival is nonetheless a fascinating insight into long-running traditions for visitors to Hong Kong.
Dragon Boat Festival
This ancient national holiday is officially known as Tuen Ng (‘double fifth’) festival because it takes places on the fifth day of the fifth lunar moon in the Chinese calendar. However, it is more commonly known as the Dragon Boat Festival because of the mass of traditionally decorated watercraft which grace the waterways of Hong Kong for the duration of the holiday.
Visitors to Hong Kong during the celebration are advised to take in one of the fiercely competitive dragon boat races, which see teams of between 20-80 people racing the massive war canoes to the sound of booming drums and cymbals. It’s also a great time to sample the fantastic cuisine of Hong Kong, as extensive pop-up food markets are common during the festivities. Zongzi (rice dumplings) are an especially popular delicacy during this time.
The Day following Mid-August Festival
Also known as the Moon Cake Festival for the sweet treats customarily eaten during the period, this harvest festival dates back over 3,000 years and is considered a holiday for families to spend special time together, and for prayer.
Hong Kong is heavily decorated with colorful lanterns during these celebrations, also earning it the nickname The Lantern Festival. Among the many colorful parades, visitors are advised to seek out the ‘The Lion Dance’, a traditional spectacle which involves two people dressed in an elaborate lion costume who perform highly choreographed dance moves. A more modern custom associated with the festivity is the eating of hairy crab, now considered a delicacy integral to the celebration of the holiday.