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 March 07, 2006
Hong Kong Culture & Heritage Celebration - 18-Days Of Chinese Festivals

 It's no secret that Hong Kong loves to stage a festival and, for 18 days this spring, visitors are invited to join the celebrations. Known as a hub for traditional Chinese festivals and local celebrations, and with a community steeped in Chinese culture and enjoying a lifestyle found nowhere else on earth, festival time in Hong Kong attracts visitors from all over the world. The festivals are often included in tour packages created by Hong Kong's travel trade partners, while the many trade shows held in the region during the high festival period encourage business travellers to extend their stay.

The key festival celebrations, due to take place between 20 April and 7 May 2006, include the Birthday of Tin Hau (20 April), the Birthday of Lord Buddha (28 April -- 7 May), the Birthday of Tam Kung (5 May) and the Cheung Chau Bun Festival (1 -- 6 May).

Showcasing these four major festivals will be a Temple Fairs, to be held on the Central Ferry Piers, Central, Hong Kong Island, daily from 1:00 -- 10:00 p.m. every Friday to Sunday during the 18-day festival period, with an Opening Ceremony on Thursday, 20 April. For thousands of years, temple fair have been an important part of the lives of the Chinese community, as village folks flocked to their local temple during festivals to pay tribute to the deities and to pray for good fortune and harvests. These fairs also provided an opportunity for socializing; for entertainment such as acrobatics, martial arts and puppet shows; for cultural exchanges and business transactions. In short, a mini carnival.

This year, Hong Kong's Temple Fair will serve as a gateway to all the festivals. It will arouse visitors' interest and encourage them to visit the respective islands and districts in order to experience the authentic happenings first hand and in depth. The location of the Temple Fair on the Central Ferry Piers is easily accessible by public transport and is the main transport hub for visitors travelling to the outlying islands of Cheung Chau, Lantau Island, Lamma Island and Peng Chau where the key celebrations will be held.

The Temple Fair will whet the appetite of visitors with a series of Pai Lau (traditional decorative billboards), bun towers, paper floral shrines and walkways decorated with traditional lanterns. Set amongst these decorations will be stalls and cultural performances. The stalls will showcase traditional arts and crafts such as Chinese paper-cutting, doll making, calligraphy, fortune telling and traditional foods, while at regular intervals during the evening hours there will be lion dances, acrobatic performers, puppet shows, stilt walkers and story-telling sessions when experts will introduce visitors to the legends and stories behind the festivals. Visitors can also learn about the Buddha bathing ritual in the unique bathing corner of the Temple Fair.

After enjoying the Temple Fair, participants can then set out to various locations to enjoy the festivals themselves. The Birthday of Tin Hau is celebrated at Yuen Long, Joss House Bay, Sai Kung, Stanley, Cha Kwo Ling and Kwun Tong with parades of fishing boats, lions and dragons. The main celebration of the birthday of Lord Buddha takes place at the Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island, with bathing rituals and Kung Fu performances. Visitors will also be invited to experience the life of a Shaolin monk for one whole day ... learning the dress code, joining the monks the prayer, cooking vegetarian food, learning Kung Fu and visiting the Wisdom Path. The Birthday of Tam Kung takes place at Tam Kung Temple, Shau Kei Wan, with parades of lions and dragons while the famous Cheung Chau Bun Festival takes place on the island of Cheung Chau. This Taoist Bun Festival is one of Hong Kong's favourites, with its unique float parade and procession featuring children in traditional costumes swaying above the crowds, culminating in an exciting bun-scrambling competition and carnival.

And there's more. Throughout this festival period there will be exhibitions on Chinese culture at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, while the region's Cultural Kaleidoscope programme will highlight culture and lifestyle in Hong Kong with special emphasis on such traditions as tai chi, the Cantonese opera, Tea Appreciation and Feng Shui. Food, of course, is an important element of any Chinese celebrations, and so throughout this festival period local restaurants will be designing thematic menus, special feasts, vegetarian dishes, themed cakes and delicacies and dining-on-a-sampan experiences, all accompanied by special discounts.