Tourists join worshippers as crowds come out in force for Lunar New Year
Thousands descend on popular Wong Tai Sin Temple on first day of the Year of the Rooster
Canadian Shirley Manh is used to honouring her ancestors at temples during Lunar New Year – she just isn’t used to sharing the experience with thousands of other people.
The air was thick with incense and queues stretched well outside the gate of Wong Tai Sin Temple on Saturday afternoon as thousands packed into the bustling New Kowloon Taoist temple to pay their respects to ancestors and pray for good fortune in the coming year.
Manh, who moved to Hong Kong with her partner Jason Blechta a few months ago, was one of a handful of non-locals who braved the crowds at Wong Tai Sin Temple to get a taste of how Hongkongers celebrate the annual festival.
Manh’s family – who’s roots are in South China – have a tradition of going to the temple in Toronto every Lunar New Year.
“I’m away from my family for Chinese New Year this year and I couldn’t do anything but go to the temple on New Year’s Day,” said the 32-year-old, who works in educational travel.
“So we’re here to celebrate and put some incense in for my family, and say happy new year to the ancestors and the gods and make sure they’re looking after us.”
Saturday’s trip was the second time Blechta, a 33-year-old engineer, had gone to a temple in New Year – and his first time going in Hong Kong.
“The temple itself is beautiful, but we couldn’t see much,” he said.
Both Blechta and Manh agreed Wong Tai Sin Temple, with its multiple colourful shrines and hordes of visitors holding plastic windmills, was a lot busier than temples in Canada.
“I have not seen a crowd like this at a temple before,” Manh said. “I don’t know what we were expecting – I knew it would be busy.”
“It’s actually kind of nice to see everyone still participates in this tradition.”
Canadian Justin Tisdale and South Korean Chloe Lee, were on holiday in Hong Kong and decided to head along to the temple after spotting it on a website.
“I hadn’t anticipated the crowds,” said Tisdale, 26. “It’s definitely an interesting experience. A little overwhelming.”
It was his first experience of Lunar New Year in Hong Kong, and he described it as “hard to put into words”.
“As a tradition it goes back so far – but here we are in the middle of this city which is a very modern, environment, and then this really old ritual still happening right in the middle of it.”
The pair planned to round off the first day of the Year of the Rooster with another Hong Kong tradition: dim sum.