Ringing in the Rabbit

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 January, 2011, 12:00am

Lunar New Year offers a feast of festivities, from fireworks over the harbour to the annual parade, local lion dances and throwing your wishes on a tree in Lam Tsuen. But how best to ring in the new year? Unlike Western traditions that revolve around alcohol and bars, the lunar festival is all about getting outside to gather under the moonlight. Revellers can always mix the two. Here's five ways to ring in the Year of the Rabbit.

1. Eat a bowl of poon choi

The traditional dish of the Lunar New Year's Eve family gathering is a big pot of Chinese gourmet delicacies, likely to include abalone, mushrooms, seaweed, shrimps, chicken and dried scallops. The dish has evolved into a diverse and often luxurious affair since its simple Hakka roots, and nowadays poon choi can be bought ready-made from restaurants or eaten in. Among the most popular places to tuck in is the Super Star Group chain, which has branches in Central, Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay.

2. Join the flower power movement

If you don't mind crowds, join the throng at Victoria Park at the biggest of 14 markets set up across Hong Kong for the festive season. Whether it's a tangerine plant to bring family blessings or cherry blossoms to signify romance, markets offer flowers but much more, from inflatable toys to good luck charms. Food stalls sell yummy skewers of curried fish balls and siu mai to warm the crowds. The market is open from noon to midnight.

3. Light a firecracker

For true tradition, you're best to get out of the city and into the rural villages of the New Territories and Outlying Islands, where celebrations are explosive - with firecrackers, lion dancers and people banging drums. Popular partying areas such as Yung Shue Wan on Lamma and Shek O beach offer perfect vantage points for those who want to drink-in the new year. Just be careful when you step into the street not to get too near the firecrackers dangled from windows just above your head.

4. Shake a stick

Feeling really brave? Then join the crush at a temple to burn incense sticks to give thanks for the Year of the Tiger's blessings and seek good fortune in the coming 12 months. There are scores of temples across the city, but the busiest is Kowloon's Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple, open all night from 9pm, where jostling for position is almost a blood sport. Its new Tai Shui Yuen Chen hall, which charges HK$100 to get in, with no incense burning allowed, is a more sedate option.

5. Have a night on the tiles

If you don't fancy the crowds, you can do what most people do. Gather with relatives or friends for a feast, crack open a bottle of cognac - and set up the mahjong table. Gambling is Hong Kong's top hobby, so what better way to try your New Year's luck than a few rounds of mahjong? If you don't have the equipment or know the rules, you can always try bridge or poker instead.