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Don't miss out on festive fun

Swire Group
Kay Ross

If you have decided to stay in town for Lunar New Year, you may be wondering what to do to entertain yourself and the children. There are so many events on offer that there is no excuse for boredom.

To ensure wealth and good luck in the Year of the Rabbit, visit the ever-popular New Year flower markets to buy chrysanthemums, irises, peonies, peach blossoms or kumquat trees.

Several markets, with hundreds of stalls selling flowers, toys, gifts, food and much more, are already open at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay; Fa Hui Park in Mong Kok, and the Sha Tin Yuen Wo Playground in the New Territories. The opening hours are: today-February 14, 2pm-11pm, and February 15, 2pm-5am. Entry to the parks is free. HKTA hotline: 2508 1234.

Also attracting enthusiastic family audiences is the Lantern and Temple Festival at the Tamar site in Admiralty. Highlights include huge lanterns, folk acrobatics, lion dancing, and a shopping arcade with handicrafts and candy.

Continuing until March 3, this event is open Sunday-Friday noon-11pm; Saturday noon-midnight; February 15, noon-3am; February 16, 4pm-midnight, and February 17, noon-midnight. Entry is $20 on weekdays and $30 at weekends, on public holidays and on February 15. Call 2807 7633.

Customers at Cityplaza, Taikoo Shing, can enjoy free entertainment daily until February 15. The 'Flying Acrobats' from Australia perform today at 1.30pm and 5.30pm; tomorrow and February 14 at 1.30pm, 3.30pm and 5.30pm; and February 15 at 1.30pm, 3.30pm and 9pm.

The Cityplaza celebrations culminate in a traditional eye-dotting ceremony, lion and dragon dances on February 15 at 9pm.

The Cathay Pacific Chinese New Year Parade on February 16, presented by the HKTA, will feature 12 decorated floats and 31 local and 14 international performing groups, including lion and dragon dance troupes, a steel band from Switzerland, a folk troupe from the mainland and several marching bands.

The parade starts at Tamar at 2pm, proceeding to the Convention and Exhibition Centre, and returning to Tamar by 3.30pm. Tickets for seats at Tamar site and Tim Mei Avenue are available ($100 or $200) from the HKTA's Information Centres at the Star Ferry Tsim Sha Tsui and the Jardine House, Central.

There is no charge for roadside vantage points along the parade route, but you should arrive early to claim a good spot. Call: 2851 6078.

The lobby of the Mandarin Oriental hotel is the venue for lion dances on February 16, at noon and 8pm. The hotel is also organising free handicraft demonstrations in the lobby from 2pm to 4pm, with flour doll-making on February 16; dragon beard candy-making on February 17, and grasshopper weaving on February 18.

No big celebration in Hong Kong is complete without fireworks. And pyrotechnics will light up Victoria Harbour on February 17, starting at 8pm and lasting for 23 minutes. It is free to watch; the only charge you are likely to experience is that of the surging crowds seeking a harbour-front view, as many roads on both sides of the harbour will be closed to traffic. Enquiries: 2591 1340.

For a taste of Chinese culture, how about a Cantonese opera performance? The Ming Chee Sing Chinese Opera Company is on stage at the Cultural Centre Grand Theatre from February 16 to 22, and the Hing Fung Ming Cantonese Opera Troupe is at City Hall Concert Hall from February 16 to 24. Tickets from Urbtix.

And why not sample a traditional Chinese New Year pudding. Most hotels are selling various types of puddings, including turnip and water chestnut, at about $100 each.

If you must escape Hong Kong, take a trip to Macau - although book ferry tickets in advance. At noon on February 17, get those cameras ready for a dragon dance in the Largo do Senado, and at midnight enjoy a fireworks display along the Praia Grande.

There are free evening concerts from February 16 to 18 in Leal Senado and Forum One.

Kung Hei Fat Choi and have fun.