Christmas arrives in Hong Kong, set to be the warmest in 30 years

  • More than half a million visitors enter the city ahead of Christmas Eve, marking a three-year high
PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 December, 2018, 11:20pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 December, 2018, 7:44am

More than half a million visitors came to Hong Kong ahead of Christmas Eve — striking a three-year high for travellers to the city ahead of the festival, as it bathed in the jovial atmosphere and colourful celebrations.

But the weather outside was anything but frightful. As midnight neared, the city was expected to have its warmest Christmas Day in 30 years.

More than 547,000 visitors arrived in the city on Sunday through 15 checkpoints, including some 72,600 coming via two major pieces of infrastructure which made their advent in 2018: the cross-border bridge to Macau and Zhuhai, and the express rail link to mainland China.

The number of inbound travellers was 11 per cent and 31 per cent up on 2017 and 2016, respectively.

In the commercial district of Causeway Bay, last-minute shoppers were serenaded with carols. And in the entertainment hub of Lan Kwai Fong, steep lanes and bars were filled with revellers in Christmas hats and reindeer antlers.

Holiday shoppers bustled in and out of stores providing year-end discounts in malls filled with decorations.

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Thick jackets, wool hats and scarves were most probably unnecessary for the big day. The Hong Kong Observatory expected a high of 24 degrees Celsius over the holidays, exceeding the highest temperature for this period in the past 30 years.

The Immigration Department expected about 13.5 million Hong Kong residents and visitors to enter and exit the city by land, air and sea throughout the festive period.

It is, however, no holiday for the various mascots representing different government departments, who on Monday took the chance to dispense not gifts, but educational messages related to waste reduction and home safety.

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Big Waster, of the Environmental Protection Department, posted a photo of a Christmas tree made of old clothes on its Facebook page, calling on the public to take their trees to government collection points next weekend, instead of dumping them in landfills.

The fire service mascot – and recent social media sensation – Anyone, clad in a blue bodysuit with its face covered and wearing only a pair of black shorts, introduced a junior “family member” to the public in a video promoting electrical safety.

The young boy, who wore a blue hoodie and — unlike his parents – showed his face, got a toy fire extinguisher for Christmas.

But amid the festivity, there were thoughts for those less fortunate in the region.

Some sent festive solidarity to Indonesia, where more than 370 people were killed by a tsunami triggered by a volcanic eruption on Saturday night.

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Humanitarian NGOs in Hong Kong, such as Plan International and the Red Cross, appealed to the public to donate to rescue efforts while they are exchanging gifts and good wishes.