A Winter Wonderland without Ice and Snow
I must admit that, as a European, celebrating Christmas in Hong Kong still feels strange to me. In Europe, this season is characterized by teeth-chattering cold weather (ideally, you would even see snow) and Christmas cookies that are piling up in supermarket shelves from August onwards. Christmas lights try to fight off the darkness during the shortest days of the year, mulled wine and punch are needed against the cold of winter. In Hong Kong, it is slightly different:
Days are not significantly shorter than during the rest of the year (generally, the length of days varies only slightly throughout the whole year). Moreover, there’s only little precipitation at low humidity (and no snow at all). Finally, the temperature is still relatively mild at around 18 – 20 degrees centigrade. However, that doesn’t stop Hong Kongers from wearing their thick winter coats and boots. Christmas spirit is to be created, at last! And the city is supporting this by doing the best it can:
„Hong Kong Winterfest“
All of Hong Kong is ablaze with Christmas lights and – sometimes more, sometimes less – festively decorated. The city’s skyscrapers send „Season’s Greetings“ or already wish for a happy new year. On Statue Square, there is an overdimensional, 18-meter high Christmas tree completely draped with glitter balls.
This location is also the center of the annual „Hong Kong Winterfest“, hosted by the Hong Kong Tourism Board in December. This festival features Christmas carols and choral services as well as visits from Santa Claus and his helpers, too.
Further Christmas Hotspots in Hong Kong
Furthermore, there are other locations throughout the whole city which truly become Christmas hotspots during the festive season. At the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade, the “Symphony of Lights” music and laser lightshow, which is taking place on every evening year-round (now running in a new and improved version), is being complemented by the Christmas-inspired Pulse 3D-Show on the façade of Hong Kong Cultural Center. Also, theme parks like Hong Kong Disneyland, Ocean Park or other popular spots like the Ngong Ping Village on Lantau Island decorate their facilities in the spirit of the festive season and present special Christmas shows to their visitors.
In the attempt to outdo each other in terms of extravaganza, Hong Kong’s malls and shopping centers top it all off: yet, the line between “festive and classy” on the one hand and “overdecorated” on the other hand is a thin one. For Asians, however, it seems that too much just can‘t be enough. At least, this provides people with a lot of photo opportunities (which I had already mentioned in earlier posts on my blog) 😉
As people come to see the decorations, malls stimulate the willingness for consumption and benefit from additional sales during Christmas season. Just like in the Western part of the world, perhaps even more effective and professional.
What importance does Christmas have in Hong Kong?
Now, one may wonder what relevance Christmas has for Hong Kong people at all. Christmas might not be a “traditional” Chinese holiday, but the people here certainly love to celebrate, no matter the occasion. In contrast to Mainland China, there is quite a high portion of Hong Kongers who actually celebrate Christmas actively. This is largely due to the British colonial heritage of the territory, I assume. Not so much out of religious motivation (but, let’s be honest, this is nowadays also true for a constantly growing number of people in the west), people rather like to celebrate the festive character of the season with their partners, families and friends by having a good time together and enjoying a lot of good food.
Celebrations usually don’t happen at home in the living rooms in front of a fireplace and the family’s own Christmas tree, as Hong Kong homes are often too small for family gatherings. Hence why people rather tend to move out to malls and restaurants which are still open throughout the Christmas holidays.
Authentic Highlight: The „Enchanted Christmas Market” in Stanley
My favourite place during Christmas season is Stanley on the south side of Hong Kong Island. On selected weekends in December, traditional Christmas markets take place on Stanley Plaza next to the Stanley Promenade. 2017, it is sponsored by the Finnish consulate. In 2015 and 2016, the German chamber of commerce hosted the event.
The “Enchanted Christmas Market“ convinced its visitors with a village made out of small wooden huts, out of which traditional wooden toys, nutcrackers, chrystmas pyramids, cookies and other specialties (cheese, honey, wine, etc.) were offered. Decoration was very classy and authentic, not too kitschy or overdecorated. Only the “Candy Wonderland” for children was on the brink of being “overdone”, but the children loved it, that’s for sure 😊
Funny anecdote: At first, we were a little disappointed that the first mug of mulled wine didn’t meet our expectations at all. Not to say it was disgusting. We deliberately chose the booth run by Germans over the one where two Hong Kongers served the mulled wine, as we didn’t think that the latter ones could provide us with “real” German stuff. In the end, it was good that we gave the other booth another try to see our prejudice proven wrong. Their mulled wine was not only far and away superior to the German one, but could have also been sold at the famous Christmas market of Nuremberg in Germany!
After this discovery of world-class mulled wine, it was just annoying that the Christmas market in Stanley already closes at 8pm. Otherwise, we would surely have consumed much more, despite a temperature of 20 degrees. And the traffic situation is a catastrophe! As there’s only one main road leading to Stanley and the town doesn’t have access to the MTR it took us more than one and a half hours to get there, whereas the ride only takes roughly 40 minutes on “normal” days when not every seems to be going to Stanley at the same time. For our way back, we decided to take a taxi.
Conclusion: Christmas season in Hong Kong is a good idea
Hong Kong during Christmas season is definitely worth a journey! And for all those of you that are not too much into Christmas shopping and the lighting and decoration madness in the concrete jungle of skyscrapers and malls as big as villages, you will find distraction hiking through the territory’s splendid countryside. Almost no rainfall for the whole month, low humidity and clear blue skies at slightly cooler (yet not too cold) temperatures – December, together with October and November, is among the best months for a trip to Hong Kong!
Enjoy your time here and have a Merry Christmas!
Have you visited Hong Kong during Christmas season? How did you take in the lights and decorations? Festive or overdone? And what was your favourite spot during Christmas season? Please, let me know what you experienced and leave a comment below. Thanks!