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Thursday, December 24, 2015, 09:13

Our city is enriched by a variety of interesting festivals

By Paul Surtees

Residents in this teeming city are so fortunate for the wide variety of festivals, each in honor of an ethnic group’s cultural heritage. It is a clear demonstration of Hong Kong’s multi-cultural attraction and mutual respect of different racial groups.

Our city is enriched by a variety of interesting festivals This is all the more impressive when we recall that although well over 90 percent of the people living here are ethnic Chinese, they just as enthusiastically throw themselves into celebrating other ethnic groups’ observance of their respective festivals. While old-time local residents may take this multiracial and multicultural harmony for granted, this is far from being the case in a number of strife-torn countries.

Many of our children and young people recently got into the spirit of Halloween by parading around Central in scary costumes! Christmas will soon be upon us, and that is celebrated here as a public holiday in much the same fashion as in Western countries.

While Chinese New Year is generally regarded as the preeminent holiday period lasting for days, some of the other festivals attract just as much respectful observance, including the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Hungry Ghost Festival, and so on.

Indeed, if you wish you can celebrate several new years here. Apart from the New Year according to the Gregorian calendar, there are the distinctly different New Years observed by different ethnic groups.

Then there is also the Buddha’s Birthday, the Easter holidays and various religious and cultural festivals.

The cultural life of this city, and thereby its internationalism and religious diversity, are boosted by its playing host to all manner of festivals from month to month. These range from the Hong Kong Literary Festival, to French May, to OKtoberfest, to the French Film Festival — and include several other film festivals, such as the recent International Short Film Festival and Jewish Film Festival.

Then there are the many well-arranged music festivals, both classical and pop, such as the recent Clockenflap. Also held recently was deTour, a festival of innovation. In fact, in almost every month several festivals will be taking place simultaneously, each vying for attention and public engagement but never hostile rivalry. They all take place under the most convivial atmosphere, which we have come to take for granted.

The foreign national cultural organizations, foreign chambers of commerce and foreign consulates operating in Hong Kong all contribute to the cultural diversity and racial harmony of this city, with many of them celebrating their respective national festivals.

And all that is in addition to the wide range of celebratory activities organized by our local community, cultural, business, charitable and governmental organizations in Hong Kong. The varied activities of the Hong Kong branches of foreign national or international clubs, learned societies, alumni associations and so on also add depth to the range of festivals and cultural events which are marked here.

We have, also spread throughout the year, several international-level arts festivals, with beautiful (and sometimes not-so-beautiful!) works of art, such as paintings and sculpture, being brought to Hong Kong for display — and, in many cases, put up for sale here too.

Festivals of all manner of sports are held each year in Hong Kong, such as the famous Rugby Sevens and tennis and horse-racing festivals. There are festivals for car lovers, for computer game addicts, for lovers of anime; festivals of gardens, for cat lovers, festivals of flowers, of chess, of history, of yachting, and festivals on many other themes as well.

So, whatever your interests — or potential interests — you are likely to find a festival here in Hong Kong where you can join with others in celebrating it. All this adds to the richness of the lives of Hong Kong people and is, also, of itself an added attraction for foreigners to come to Hong Kong for work or for holiday.

We are lucky that there is the interest to stage them all here, and to attract eager local participants to attend them all. In their range and depth they enhance Hong Kong’s reputation as a world city. While I am not suggesting that we dedicate a festival to mark all these festivals, we should reflect on our good fortune that this is taking place right on our doorstep.

The writer is a regular local commentator and university lecturer who has attended festivals in many countries.

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