How to Celebrate Chinese New Year 2021 like a Hong Kong Local (and Join in From Home)

Nowhere puts on Chinese New Year like Hong Kong. Welcome the Year of the Ox like a true Hong Konger with banquets, time-honoured customs and virtual temple visits. Discover the at-home celebrations you can join in, no matter where you are in the world.

In partnership withHong Kong Tourism Board

Chinese New Year. The most important festival on Hong Kong's cultural calendar. Also known as the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, the celebration transforms the 24-hour city into one big, colourful celebration. Time-honoured customs play out on streets strung with glowing red lanterns. Dragons dance between light shows, hand-crafted installations and markets blossom with fortune-changing flowers.

Fittingly, 2021 is the Year of the Ox, a symbol of strength and determination. And while celebrations may look a little different owing to social-distancing restrictions and cancelled events, there are plenty of ways you can get involved - no matter where you are in the world. There's nothing quite like events such as this to offer both escapism and excitement at the prospect of being able to travel again.

With that in mind, we're turning to Hong Kong for inspiration. Get cooking, tune in to virtual festivals and follow fortune-enhancing customs with our round-up of traditions and virtual events that you can try at home. Legend has it they may even maximise your luck. Fingers crossed.

Celebrate the Hong Kong way: Chinese New Year customs, traditions and events to try at home

1. Get your bloom on

Each year, around 15 festive, open-air flower markets temporarily sprout up across the city. Visiting is an annual tradition for many Hong Kong families, who have dinner on the eve of Chinese New Year then head out to buy blooms. The crowds are often big; vendors sell into the small hours. This year it's a scaled-back affair, with sectioned off areas and safety precautions. Our pick: Victoria Park - usually the largest venue - or Mong Kok's smaller street market.

More than decoration, the flowers have symbolic meaning too. Stuck at home? Fill a vase with bamboo for luck, cherry blossom for new beginnings, love-inducing peonies, orchids for purity, and pussy willows to help with growth. Oh and narcissus too; they're said to bring good fortune. Call the florist, it's time to stock up.

2. Clean, clean, clean

Bring out the rubber gloves and get scrubbing. Cleaning your house/ flat/ bedroom from top to bottom will help rid your space from last year's back luck (understatement of the century). Making everything spick and span also clears the way for good luck to enter, so part ways with (or find other homes for) broken or unused items - no, you really don't need that old, chipped mug at the back of your cupboard. Fling open your windows too; there's nothing like a blast of fresh air to say "out with the old, in with the new".

Enhance good fortune by incorporating tips from Feng Shui master designer Thierry Chow, the woman behind our favourite lounging spots in Soho House Hong Kong. For frustrated travellers who miss exploring, Thierry advises placing a bronze horse in the south-east corner of your home to increase the chances of being able to jet off. Watch the rest of her tips here.

3. Time to decorate

Take inspiration from some of Hong Kong's elaborate Chinese New Year installations. We're big fans of the Garden of Wishes that hugs the fountain in the Landmark and the interactive Butterflies of Hope fluttering over Lee Tung Avenue.

Such large-scale displays might be difficult to replicate at home. Instead, jazz up interiors with whimsical lanterns and tack a red-and-gold fai chun banner on your front door. Nine oranges nestled in a bowl in the lounge or kitchen are said to ward off bad luck.

4. Visit the temples

Come midnight on the eve of Chinese New Year, thousands gather at Wong Tai Sin Temple to make offerings - it's believed that the earlier they arrive, the bigger the blessing. Set on the south side of Kowloon's Lion Rock mountain, this sprawling complex of altars, pavilions and gardens is an important site for Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian worshippers. Not able to make it with the incense sticks? Tune in to a live-broadcast ceremony.

For a more peaceful celebration, skip across to the Tang-dynasty Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden in the centre of Kowloon. Its immaculately landscaped gardens, koi-filled ponds and lush greenery set the scene for meditation and reflection. On the second day of Chinese New Year, head north to Sha Tin and turn the copper windmill clockwise at the Song-dynasty Che Kung Temple. Good luck, guaranteed.

5. Cook up a feast

After decorating your home and following the Chinese New Year customs, plan a banquet bursting with essential eats to bring you a year filled with good fortune. Kick start your cooking with dumplings, remembering to arrange them in lines instead of circles. Circles imply that your life will follow suit and not go anywhere - this kind of negativity we don't need.

Up next is the communal hotpot. Make like locals in Hong Kong and dive into a big bowl brimming with scallops, prawns and roasted meats. Seafood aficionados should opt for lobster and laden the platter with Chinese pickles, crispy taro and shredded carrot.

How does that Hong Kong saying go? No chicken, no feast! No problem, seeing as you can whip up the moreish and incredibly tender fu gui (wealth) chicken. Simply wrap the chicken in a layer of dough to keep it tender and sit atop a bed of rice to absorb all the succulent flavours. Decorate the centrepiece with some fresh crab and mushrooms.

Finish off with nin gou, a sticky-sweet rice cake often topped with red dates. If you're seeking a new job, gorge on these. "Nin gou" translates to "higher by the year".

6. Take a hike

Sure, we're missing the annual Chinese New Year Parade filled with huge floats, tumbling acrobats and roaring lion dances, but this year we're using this extra downtime to explore Hong Kong's epic hiking trails. City of skyscrapers? Think again. Head to Lamma Island to sashay between beaches and villages, refuelling at the smattering of seafood restaurants dotted around the coastline. This route clocks in at a manageable 5km.

After something more challenging? Venture to Ma On Shan Country Park. The trail here requires a little bit of extra (uphill) leg work. Wild and waterfall-filled, clamber across boulders and pass through streams on this 11km route.

Photo: Kelvin Yuen

7. Join in the celebrations from home

Chinese New Year is a truly global celebration. No matter where you are in the world, you can join in with the celebrations from home.

Tune in to Chinese New Year Race Day on 14 February. For this key date in the celebratory calendar, city dwellers don their luckiest outfit and hit the Sha Tin racetrack. This year you can cheer on your winner from home. Have a flutter, tour the race course and meet world-famous jockeys and trainers in the follow-along videos.

We may not be allowed to gather with friends and family this year but it doesn't mean we have to feel disconnected. Send a CNY e-card to loved ones to know that you're thinking of them. Watch The Peninsula's lion dance performance on its helipad, streaming live from its Facebook page on 12 February. To finish off celebrations, watch this tutorial on Cantonse greetings that'll bring good fortune. It's a great way to practice your Cantonese ahead of your next visit to Hong Kong.

The Lowdown

Find out more about how locals celebrate Chinese New Year in Hong Kong by visiting

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