Celebrate CNY in Hong Kong like a local

The Chinese New Year is always associated with a form of archaic or even a rather dull festival, rooted as it is in traditional Chinese customs. But that couldn’t be further from the truth – Hong Kong explodes with color and cool celebration during the Chinese New Year period.

With bustling flower markets, exciting city-wide events, and beautiful festive displays galore staging throughout the entire festive period from day to night, Hong Kong is one of the Asian cities with the richest CNY ambiance. Tourists looking to experience a celebration like no other should definitely pay a visit during Chinese New Year – and we can show you how to celebrate just like the locals do.

Poon Choi. Traditional Chinese families eat big bowl feast together at home. (Photo credit: Panther Media / Alamy Stock Photo)

#1: Tuck into a Poon Choi Feast for being perfect in every way

Also known as a “basin meal,” poon choi used to be a rather under-the-radar dish, confined mostly to rural villages. It has seen an explosion in popularity in recent years, especially during the Chinese New Year period. An enormous basin is layered with ingredients and covered in a rich, savory gravy. The basin is then gently warmed up and eaten communally. There is much symbolism attached to the ingredients found in poon choi, from pork that symbolizes prosperity, to prawns that symbolize happiness. Locals believe that by eating these auspicious foods, you can attract these positive attributes into your life.

Tourists to Hong Kong can partake in a traditional poon choi feast by joining extraordinary local tours to one of Hong Kong’s rural walled villages like those in Yuen Long or Sha Tau Kok. With distinct customs attached to these walled villages, you can expect a fascinating glimpse into the authentic way villagers celebrate the CNY!

Puddings (Photo credit: Kee Wah Bakery)

#2: Make yourself a Chinese New Year pudding to achieve new heights

One of the most popular dishes to serve during Chinese New Year are Chinese New Year puddings. These delectable puddings come in both sweet and savory varieties and symbolize prosperity and attaining new heights in the new year. They’re typically made before the Chinese New Year period and served during house visits to friends and relatives.

Perfect for cooking lovers, who can take home the recipe of Chinese New Year puddings through participating in the hands-on festive workshops run by traditional bakeries in town like Kee Wah, allowing you to make these traditional treats for your loved ones whenever and wherever you like.

Dried seafood shop at Des Voeux Road West in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong (Photo credit: Peter Scholey / Alamy Stock Photo)

#3: Kick-off a prosperous New Year with dried seafood shopping

Dried seafood is always the core ingredient for the Chinese New Year menu. Why? Locals believe that the start of the new year sets the tone for the year ahead. It is especially important to savor a good meal made with luxurious ingredients on the first day of CNY, to begin your year as you mean to go on.

The section of Sheung Wan’s Des Voeux Road West between Queen Street and Centre Street is well-known as “Dried Seafood Street”, which is one of the world’s biggest dried seafood hubs. There, you’ll find dozens of shops doing a brisk trade in preserved scallops, abalone, shrimp and so much more. These streets become even busier before Chinese New Year, as locals stock up on these rare and precious ingredients ahead of celebratory meals with their loved ones. Many dried seafood products symbolize blessings and lucky words – fish maw symbolizes prosperity, while dried abalone looks similar to gold ingots and thus represents wealth.

Today, tourists can also easily purchase dried seafood products all in one place at major retail stores in Hong Kong. So, it’s time for some CNY-dried seafood shopping!

Mahjong (Photo credit: Humid with a Chance of Fishballs)

#4: Play mahjong to activate good luck

During the Chinese New Year, locals visit each other’s homes to share New Year’s blessings and spread happiness. One of the favorite activities among locals during the new year is to play mahjong. With a maximum of four players engaging at a time, this fun, highly social game represents unity and togetherness, and requires both luck and skill to win. The loud clacking of the mahjong tiles is said to sound just like the firecrackers that are set off during Chinese New Year to drive away misfortune.

Be ready to fall in love with this game – you can join an exclusive mahjong course organized by local operators that promises to have you “washing” those tiles like a pro in no time.

Immerse yourself in marquee Chinese New Year events in Hong Kong

Other than family and friends’ gatherings, the festive atmosphere is also filling up every corner of the city with an exciting array of celebratory events that you should not miss during the CNY time in Hong Kong.

The city’s biggest Chinese New Year event, the Cathay International Chinese New Year Night Parade, is returning with a bang to kick off the Year of the Dragon on 10 February (Chor 1) after a five-year hiatus.

The festive ambiance continues to shine on 11 February (Chor 2) as the world-famous Victoria Harbour lights up with the spectacular 2024 Lunar New Year Fireworks Display. Head to the best viewing points located on both sides of the harbor promenade for this shimmering performance, and usher in abundant prosperity and joy as the fireworks bloom gorgeously in the air.

The Chinese New Year period lasts until the 15th day, and before that, tourists can expect to enjoy a rich festive spirit around the town. A vibrant array of exciting celebrations awaits you in Hong Kong, such as the CNY Raceday, and Lunar New Year Cup, as well as city-wide lion dances galore and so much more.