Lunar New Year in Hong Kong
In this big city with deep cultural ties and traditions, photographer Nicole Claringbold shares how to make the most of celebrating and photographing Chinese Near Year in Hong Kong. From the best places to photograph, to which angles could work best and insights into the cultural traditions. The festive ambience and visual delights of Hong Kong at Lunar New Year make it a very worthwhile destination or stopover if you are travelling in the region.
When is Chinese New Year Celebrated?
Determined by the date of the second new moon after the winter solstice on December 21, Chinese New Year typically falls sometime between January 21 and February 20 on the Gregorian calendar. In 2024, Chinese New Year is celebrated from February 10th – 13th, and will fall between January 29th-31st in 2025.
Lunar New Year is celebrated over 3 or 4 days if it coincides with a Sunday. With family gatherings and temple rituals to usher in good luck, health and wealth for the new year high on the agenda, there are endless activities to do and see at this time of the year.
RED symbolises luck – joy & celebration
Favourable for its connection with prosperity, red is the key element of the most auspicious occasion on the Chinese Lunar Calendar – Chinese New Year.
In Hong Kong, the occasion is marked by the dressing of the city in a lavish display of red. The festivities see the Hong Kong streets and skyline transform, awash with a stunning display of festive lights, lanterns and auspicious symbolism.
Chinese New Year Photography Locations
The Fai Chun Masters of Ladder Street
Climb the stairs of Ladder Street from Queens Road West heading to the Cat Street flea market. Here you will wander in awe of the Fai Chun Masters as they hand paint messages of health – wealth – prosperity as gifts for the coming new year.
Get a personalised Fai Chun hand painted with the Masters. Some will even invite you to paint the intricate Chinese characters yourself with their expert guidance! Their deft hand-strokes will mesmerise you, while the simple display of their many works hang on the surrounding walls, making for a classic Hong Kong portrait background.
Insight – On the way, stop by and see the many effigie shops scattered along Queens Rd West just outside the Sai Ying Pun MTR Exit A1. See the impressive display of symbolic red good luck trinkets on display which make for interesting captures.
Peninsula Hotel – Kowloon
For one of the most iconic Chinese New Year captures, the lantern display at the Peninsula Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui cannot be missed. A stunning display of hundreds of lanterns that appear to be magically suspended in front of this timeless heritage hotel.
Grab the Star ferry from Wan Chai and marvel at the beautiful site of the hotel as you cross the harbour to Tsim Sha Tsui. Stroll around 8-10 minutes to Salisbury Road via the Harbour front promenade to the hotel.
Insight – Make sure you view from the harbour side of the road, a classic reflection pool sits just outside the Hong Kong Space museum making for a great capture on a still evening.
Lee Tung Avenue -a sea of red lanterns
One of the newest attractions in town can be found at the Lee Tung Avenue complex in Wan Chai. Easily accessed via the MTR Island Line to Wan Chai, take Exit D and with any luck, a sprinkle of rain may just heighten the magical experience with amazing reflections.
Insight – Go low and make sure you get those reflections happening. No rain? Take your own water bottle along and make a grand splash or seek out the reflective surfaces of glass – even your mobile phone / tablet screen surface can make the difference, carefully placed under your lens.
Flower Market in Victoria Park
Typically, people visit the Victoria Park Chinese New Year Flower Market to decorate their homes and offices with a floral offering. Markets and flower stores across the territory appear to be bursting at the seams with an array of specialised auspicious plants and flowers.
Lucky cherry blossoms (new beginnings, freshness, innocence), bonsai Kumquat trees (prosperity), orchids (perfection, abundance, purity), pussy willows (growth, prosperity), and small daffodils in ornate china dishes (wealth, fortune) are all fervently traded.
Insight – The most immersive experience of the Chinese New Year Flower Market is to attend on the last night of the event. Go late in the evening to not only bag a bargain as vendors feverishly clear their stock, but for the wonderful ‘only in Hong Kong’ experience… Nothing will make you smile more than to see an array of cherry blossom trees taking to the public transport system. The intoxicating smell wafting through a packed bus, train or tram carriage in the challenge to get them home and decorate the house is all part of the magic of the celebrations.
Not to be missed…..
Chinese New Year Fireworks
To embrace the new year for luck and prosperity – firecrackers, fireworks and red clothes are also rituals. On the first day of Chinese New Year, Hong Kong is set ablaze in one of the world’s greatest displays of fireworks.
Running for 20 plus minutes and with over twenty thousand fireworks launched from barges anchored in Victoria Harbour, the old year is ushered out with a spectacular bang in a not to be missed extravaganza display of pyrotechnics. Best viewed harbourside, the waterfront promenade in Tsim Tau Shui or the newly developed waterfront promenade that extends from Sheung Wan to Tin Hau.
Insight – Go early and stake your claim on a good vantage point. It is also a great opportunity to try your hand at a hyperlapse video. Take in the sunset and experience the blue hour as the city lights come up over the busy Hong Kong Island skyline, while the busy ferries track back and forth across Victoria Harbour.
Kung Hei Fat Choi! 恭喜发财
Want to keep reading? Take a peek below at related posts and guides…
Photographing the Mid-Autumn Festival in Hong Kong
A Photographer’s Guide to Hong Kong
Travel Photography: Taking People Photos + Cultural Portraits
An expat photographer with a passion for people, their culture and particularly Asia. Since settling in Hong Kong, I have revelled in discovering Asia’s mystical hidden beauty, colour & artistry of the incredibly diverse diaspora of people in the region. In this ever evolving decade of change, being an observer to a country under going a massive change of identity, I am constantly seeking the unseen to share.
Follow Nicole via Instagram @forevernc