Wishful thinking

Joyee Chan

A new week-long festival aims to put a traditional new year custom onto HK's event calendar

Joyee Chan |

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Wishes fly high as local women in traditional dress take aim at the wishing tree in Lam Tsuen.
With a jump, a stretch and a toss, people aim plastic oranges bearing their wishes at the dense foliage of the artificial wishing tree in Lam Tsuen Wishing Square.

This is one of the most popular traditions of Lunar New Year. However, this year, Lam Tsuen is extending the custom into a week-long Hong Kong Well-wishing Festival. Starting today, the village will stage a series of 11 fun-packed events, including a campfire party and a "funkiest costume" contest.

"People taking part in the events get to experience Lam Tsuen's traditional Lunar New Year festivities and its local well-wishing culture," says Chan Cho-leung, convenor of the event.

A real Chinese banyan tree used to be the centre of attention in Lam Tsuen before one of its branches, laden with papers and fruit, gave way in 2005. Today, while the tree is cordoned off to recover, a very realistic replica has taken over.

Orange-coloured plastic balls have also replaced the real fruit. But their lighter weight tests wish-makers' strength and tactics when trying to get their wishes up onto the tree.

It is believed that the higher in the tree your message lands, the more likely it is your wishes will come true.

On Sunday, a contest will draw together locals and tourists to see who can throw their wishes the highest and which fancy dress impresses most. The team of four with the best costumes will win HK$10,000 and a trophy.

During the festival, visitors will also get an extra chance to deliver their wishes to the gods.

They can light colourful lotus lanterns and place them into a recently-built "wishing stream" next to the tree.

The organisers will collect the lanterns later and send the messages to the temple.

On Monday - Valentine's Day - the spotlight falls on a rustic yet romantic campfire party. One hundred young women and men from Liannan Yao Autonomous County will fill the evening air with rich folksongs and energetic dances performed with bamboo sticks.

Visitors can enjoy a barbecue while watching the performance.

Other activities on the menu include an early morning market, where fresh, local produce will be on sale, a traditional snacks carnival, a pet carnival, a photo contest and hiking and heritage tours.

In conjunction with the Hong Kong Tourism Board, the organisers have also brought to the festival 11 of the 13 carnival floats from the New Year parade in Tsim Sha Tsui.

The exciting festival programme is expected to attract 20,000 to 30,000 visitors to Lam Tsuen.

"We hope the festival will help promote local tourism, extend the length of tourists' visits and increase tourism income," Chan says.

Until Thursday, visitors can catch free shuttle buses to and from Tai Wo MTR station and Lam Tsuen Wishing Square.

For more details about the Hong Kong Well-wishing Festival, visit www.lamtsuen.com

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