The Year of the Ox is approaching fast! Chinese New Year is a very special time of year for Chinese communities across the globe, and certainly in Hong Kong. What’s more, many of us in Hong Kong get days off work to celebrate this festival! If you are looking for things to do in Hong Kong during Chinese New Year, we’ve got you covered. Whether you call the festival Chinese New Year, Lunar New Year, Spring Festival or Tết, you’ll want to check out our suggestions for the top things to do during Chinese New Year

1. Try your hand at making Nian Gao

nian gao chinese new year things to do hong kong

Superstition and tradition are closely connected, especially with the food that is eaten during Chinese New Year. This is why Chinese people love eating steamed puddings, also known as “gao” in Mandarin and “go” in Cantonese (糕). In fact, one of the most popular puddings, “nian gao”, has made its way to become a Chinese New Year must-have in countries with significant Chinese communities, including Malaysia and Vietnam.

People love eating nian gao during Chinese New Year because nian gao is a homonym for “higher year”. “Nian” (年) means “year”, while “gao” (糕) sounds the same as the Chinese word for “high” (高). Put them together and you get the symbolism – reaching new heights every year.

However, store-bought nian gao is often quite expensive. This is because people rarely buy nian gao outside of Chinese New Year, so brands would try to reach for as much revenue as possible during that period. As we’re all spending more time at home this year, why not try your hand at making nian gao yourself? Check out tastehongkong’s recipe for coconut milk nian gao, and be sure to pan fry slices of it for a thin, crispy outside and a soft, chewy inside!

Don’t have much of a sweet tooth? You could also try making savory Chinese New Year favorites such as turnip cake or taro cake.

2. Learn essential Chinese New Year greetings

Visiting a Chinese friend’s family this Chinese New Year? Or do you simply want to find out more about Chinese culture? If you’ve answered yes to any of the above, definitely try learning some essential Chinese New Year greetings before the festivities begin.

Chinese New Year greetings are four-character phrases that wish people good luck, good fortune, good health and so on. These greetings are so ingrained in Chinese culture that in Hong Kong, kids would learn them in kindergarten. Oftentimes, aunts, uncles and other elder relatives would even quiz kids on these greetings before gifting them with lai see!

Teach yourself a couple of these Chinese New Year greetings with our handy guide, and impress your Chinese friends by greeting them with a few this year!

3. Watch a classic Hong Kong Chinese New Year film

Get festive by putting on a classic Hong Kong Chinese New Year film! As we’re all likely to stay at home this year thanks to the coronavirus, there has been no better time than to watch all these 80s and 90s comedies back to back. It is pretty much Hong Kong tradition for families to gather around the TV and chuckle at a Chinese New Year film together, as most, if not all of these films are comedies.

Topping the list of must-watch classics is All’s Well, Ends Well 家有囍事 (1992) starring Stephen Chow and Leslie Cheung, followed by It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World 富貴逼人 (1987), and Johnnie To’s The Eighth Happiness 八星報喜 (1988). The latter two are both available on Netflix, but All’s Well, Ends Well is not. Don’t worry though, this film has been shown every year by Hong Kong TV channels since its release nearly 30 years ago, so you’ll definitely get to watch it. Although we can’t celebrate with friends and family this year, we’re confident that putting on one of the films above will put you in a festive mood. 

4. Visit the Lunar New Year Flower Markets across Hong Kong

A visit to one of Hong Kong’s Lunar New Year flower markets is without a doubt, one of the most important traditions of preparing for Chinese New Year. Open until New Year’s Eve, flower markets are scattered across the city, offering row after row of plants and flowers.

Hong Kongers love snapping up orchids for abundance, tangerine trees for prosperity, and daffodils for good fortune. However, flower markets this year will look very different. Under the impact of the pandemic, the government has slashed the number of stalls by half and will require stall owners to present negative COVID test results. The government has also brought in crowd control measures and will require visitors to collect an entry ticket before entering the markets. Still, we think that a visit to one of the Lunar New Year flower markets is a tradition everyone in Hong Kong must experience. Just be sure to stay safe!

More about the Lunar New Year flower markets:

Opening hours: 9am to 12am daily, from February 6th to 11th
Location: Across Hong Kong, but the two larger flower markets are at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay and Fa Hui Park in Mong Kok
How to get an entry ticket: Download The Gulu app to collect a digital ticket, or visit the markets in person to collect a ticket at a nearby ticket booth

5. Check out Chinese New Year displays around Hong Kong

lee tung avenue chinese lunar new year 2021 lanterns display
Photo credit: Rosemary Ling

Featuring whimsical lanterns, interactive digital games and a homage to traditional craftsmanship, this year’s Chinese New Year displays are fantastic for photos with your family and friends. You’ll find these displays around major shopping areas in Hong Kong, but our favorites are the displays at Lee Tung Avenue, Pacific Place, and the Landmark Atrium.

Unfortunately for this year, there are quite a few classic Chinese New Year events that have been cancelled. However, we’ve put together a list of them below, so that you’ll know what you can look forward to next year!

Chinese New Year’s Eve: Praying for new year blessings at Wong Tai Sin Temple
First day of Chinese New Year: Cathay Pacific Chinese New Year Night Parade
Second day of Chinese New Year: Annual Lunar New Year Fireworks Display, praying for luck at the Che Kung Temple
During the first few days of Chinese New Year: Making a wish at Lam Tsuen Wishing Tree

Despite all that’s been happening the past year, we have faith in the Year of the Ox! Have a happy Chinese New Year ahead!