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AUTUMN IS A TIME OF FABULOUS FESTIVALS IN HONG KONG

By Karisa Lui

"May we live long and share the beauty of the moon together, even if we are hundreds of miles apart," says a romantic Chinese poem, well known in Hong Kong. Yes, here in Canada we are indeed hundreds of miles from Hong Kong, but why not travel those many miles between us on a trip of a lifetime and be in Hong Kong for its special Mid-Autumn Festival this year, or for one of its culinary festivals later in the season? They are always unforgettable events.

 

Celebrated under a full moon on the 15th day of the eighth moon in the Chinese calendar, the Mid-Autumn Festival is one of the many annual traditional festivals celebrated in Hong Kong. This year, the festival falls on Thursday, 15 September. For many, this is considered to be one of the most important festivals of the year and in Hong Kong it is celebrated with great style.

Also known as the Moon Festival or Lantern Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival was celebrated for the end of the harvest in China in the old days. Over the years, traditions and legends have turned it into a colourful and exciting celebration. One such legend has it that Hou Yi, the Divine Archer, shot down nine of ten suns that were plaguing the world. He was rewarded with the herb of immortality, which he hid. But his wife, Chang O, found and ate the herb and, knowing her husband would be angry when he found out, fled to the moon. Arriving on the moon breathless, she coughed up the herb, which promptly turned into the Jade Rabbit, an important mythological character. Today, children still look up at the moon during the Mid-Autumn Festival hoping for a glimpse of Chang O and the Jade Rabbit.

People in Hong Kong start preparing for the Mid-Autumn Festival some weeks before the full autumn moon. Shops sell colourful lanterns in the shape of animals and fruits and, more recently, in the shape of aeroplanes, space ships, and cartoon characters.

A "must-have" treat during the festival are moon cakes which are symbolic of the celebration and are traditionally given as gifts to friends and family. Bakers are busy for many days before the festival, creating these traditional pastries filled with ground lotus and sesame seeds with egg yolks (representing the moon) in the centre, though nowadays more flavours and styles are being created to appeal to changing tastes.

Lanterns and moon cakes are a traditional part of the Mid-Autumn Festival, and families and young people enjoy the spirit of festivity under the stars of Hong Kong. But let's not forget another element of this festival: the Tai Hang Fire Dragon Dance. The dragon - 67 metres in length and illuminated with burning incense - is paraded through the streets bringing, it is believed, prosperity to every neighbourhood. It's a fun period of the year for all, as visitors and locals alike, gather in public parks or ascend Victoria Peak to relish the sight of Hong Kong bathed in moonlight and aglitter with lanterns. An unforgettable sight.

The following month, 27 - 30 October to be exact, sees another great festival in Hong Kong. This year will be the eighth that the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) has presented the Hong Kong Wine & Dine Festival, an exceptional tasting experience that has now become the 'talk-of-the-town'. It all starts with over 300 stalls set against the stunning backdrop of Victoria Harbour. Here are offered fine wines, spirits and beers from many countries around the world, as well as mouth-watering (not to mention award-winning) small dishes and 'bites'. And then there are wine-pairing meals and tasting classes designed by master chefs.

The Wine & Dine Festival is, in fact, a delicious prelude to a whole month of culinary events known as the Hong Kong November Feast. This festival is a month-long series of events tailored for gastronomy enthusiasts and party lovers, including street carnivals, chefs' master classes, culinary-themed tours, wine-pairing meals and dining offers. It's a whole month of indulgence with dining events around the town. It's a time when Hong Kong's popular nightlife neighbourhoods will be dancing and eating the night away with street parties and in hotspots featuring great entertainment and mouth-watering cuisine.

The festival will also be offering an Urban Wine Walk ... a self-guided expedition through pedestrian-friendly areas that will offer participants opportunities for socializing in local bars and restaurants, where fabulous wines and 'bites' can be sampled.

Yes, every autumn, along with the refreshing breeze, Hong Kong offers a delicious festival with epicurean events from around the globe to set everyone's taste buds tingling. Please visit http://www.discoverhongkong.com/ca/see-do/events-festivals/highlight-events/index.jsp for more information.