Since I arrived in Hong Kong on 1 January, there has been a distinct transition going on in the decorations around buildings, shopping centres, parks and public squares. The Christmas trees (and their various accompaniments with mostly questionable relevance to Christmas – like cartoon characters or kitsch/cute animal figurines) have been coming down, and everywhere the Chinese New Year decorations have been going up.
Every shopping centre, no matter how street-corner-suburban, has had displays of some kind, most involving lots of gold, fruit and flowers, lanterns, the chinese characters for good fortune and blessing, and plenty of DRAGONS. For this lunar new year, it is the year of the dragon in the Chinese calendar.
Along with the decorations of public spaces, people have been undertaking the yearly rituals of cleaning out their homes, buying new clothes and having a hair cut before the start of the new year. The anticipation has been building, and finally, last weekend, the new year arrived with the resounding clatter of drums, cymbals, and lots and lots of fireworks – large and small, public and private, echoing around the hills at all hours of the day and night!
Over the loooong weekend (hooray for public holidays), I managed to take in some of the major Hong Kong festivities, including the light parade and the fireworks on the harbour. But without doubt, the highlight of my Chinese New Year weekend was the Lunar New Year’s Eve fair, a.k.a. the Victoria Park Flower Market.
This market runs for several days in the lead up to new year’s eve, ending in the wee small hours of new year’s day.
Victoria Park is a big place, and the market probably covers the area of several football fields. Local roads are closed to traffic and public transport is rearranged to cope with the crowds. I popped in during the afternoon of new year’s eve (Sunday 22 January) when things were just starting to get busy.
There’s a one-way pedestrian flow plan around the market, with large signs indicating direction in each aisle. People happily ignore these and crowd chaos ensues. However the mood is so festive that nobody seems to mind standing in the barely-moving crush. And there’s so much to feast one’s eyes on, that moving so slowly isn’t a problem at all!
Traditionally a pure flower market as people shop for the perfect bloom for the new year, the Victoria Park market is now about half flowers. Beautiful orchids, citrus of all shapes and sizes, bulbs, blossoms, tall gladioli spears… There were cut flowers in all colours of the rainbow (literally – some of those colours definitely weren’t natural!), and some in shapes I have never seen before. The scent was delightful – truly a feast for the senses.
The other half of the market? Well… it’s the biggest, most fascinating and eclectic selection of stuff you just don’t need that I’ve ever seen in one place. It puts the detritus from the bottom of Royal Easter show bags completely in the shade. I loved it!!
There were ridiculous hats and inflatable hammers; ridiculous inflatable hats; plush toys of all shapes and sizes; the world’s most amazing shower screen scourer / bag organiser / shoe polish / mop / saucepan lid; drums and various other noise makers; helium balloons; colourful things that whirl in the breeze; unidentifiable dried foodstuffs in large heaps; phone covers with so much bling on them you’d need to buy a larger bag (fortunately available at the next store); cushions that look like phone app logos; slippers (with or without claws); many many dragons in many many forms…
… and store holders that don’t sit back and wait for the sale to come to them… oh no! Every store has someone yelling about their wares, some of them from precarious buoy-like structures in the middle of the pedestrian flow. Just in case you weren’t sure that you really needed a special set of cartoon character toys designed to sit in your sneakers when you’re not wearing them. Or a hat that looks like a dripping tap. Or a tall inflatable giraffe.
It was wonderful watching serious-looking old chinese men wander through the crowd with their tall bunch of gladis or blossom branches in one hand, and a large toy banana in the other. It was also occasionally quite challenging to avoid losing an eye to passing hazards in the crowd, including spear-like flowers, food on sticks, or miscellaneous novelty items that are difficult to carry in a compact manner.
Of course, there was also novelty food to be sampled, and I am pleased to report that I survived my first encounter with mystery dumplings in a cup, which come served straight out of a large boiling pot, are doused with brown sauce and eaten with a wooden skewer. I was also very pleased to rediscover strawberries on a stick – these ones were frozen and covered in toffee. Delicious! All in all, a wonderful afternoon of fun and frivolity at the fair. Happy Chinese New Year!
I love reding about your trip! I can see you are having a great time and I hope this continues 🙂