Hong Kong Lunar New Year: City lights up for Year of the Rabbit

After three years of travel restrictions because of the pandemic, millions of families across the world are more freely celebrating the Lunar New Year.

The Year of the Rabbit begins Sunday, but a frenzy of preparations were well underway last week in cities such as Hong Kong. Since it began gradually reopening its borders with China earlier this month, Hong Kong has welcomed a flood of citizens traveling between the city and the mainland for the celebration of the Spring Festival.

In mainland China, Chunyun, the 40-day period surrounding the festival, typically sees many people travel to their hometowns to be with their families. This event is sometimes referred to in the region as “the world’s largest migration.” According to the Associated Press, Chinese travelers are staying closer to home this year, favoring Hong Kong and Macao over destinations such as Bangkok; Bali, Indonesia; and Hokkaido, Japan.

In Hong Kong, markets are dominated by red and gold decorations as excited customers search for the perfect festival orchid to mark the New Year. The city is abuzz and brimming with elated children.

Students of all ages look forward to days off this week to commemorate the holiday and relax. Victoria Harbor features a dazzling art and light installation on the water. Popular tourist destinations like the Peninsula Hotel have been preparing for an influx of visitors.

Within the Chinese Zodiac, the Year of the Rabbit is poised to take over from the Year of the Tiger. Across Hong Kong, images of rabbits cover pictures, stuffed animals and inflatable balloons, popping up in the same way inflatable snowmen dominate U.S. front yards every December.

In Chinese culture, the rabbit is considered the luckiest out of all the 12 animals. It symbolizes mercy, elegance and beauty. People who are born in the Year of the Rabbit are believed to be calm and peaceful.

For some in Hong Kong, this Spring Festival marks a long-awaited reunion with loved ones. Joyce Ma-Lachmann was born and raised in the city but relocated to Germany last year after marrying her husband, Martin Lachmann.

“The festival is a bridge for our family, linking one place to another and connecting the bloodlines.”

— Joyce Ma-Lachmann

The couple, who are expecting a child, are back in the city to see her family after being apart for the past year. On Friday, they went to see the Che Kung Temple.

“The festival is a bridge for our family, linking one place to another and connecting the bloodlines,” Ma-Lachmann said.

On Saturday, Nicholas Yeung and his girlfriend, Lara Lam, were preparing to leave Hong Kong for Macao, just a few hours away by shuttle bus. Lam is a Macao citizen who works in Hong Kong. The couple used to go to Macao every Lunar New Year for family gatherings, but they stopped after China’s strict coronavirus protocols began.

Yeung was born and raised in Hong Kong, where he says his New Year’s celebrations were both similar and different from his experiences celebrating with Lam’s family.

“The festive atmosphere and rich traditional customs for Lunar New Year’s celebrations have been fading out because of the rapid processes of social changes like urbanization, Westernization and modernization in Hong Kong,” Yeung said.

“For me, really, the Lunar New Year is just a great excuse to meet people and gather with those you love,” he added.

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