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Chinese New Year lion dance1/2
Photograph: Shutterstock
Hong Kong fireworks at Victoria Harbour2/2
Photograph: Michael Elleray

What we will miss for CNY 2021 and what to do instead

Things we will miss this year when welcoming the Year of the Ox and alternative ways to celebrate

By Tatum Ancheta
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This article was originally published on January 19, 2021. 

The Lunar New Year is one of the most significant festivals in Hong Kong. It is usually the liveliest and most vibrant way you'll experience the city after the Christmas festivities. This year, as we welcome the Year of the Ox, the city will be celebrating a quieter festival due to the continued social distancing restrictions. Though we already see Chinese New Year's bright displays popping up throughout the city and red packets have started to turn various storefronts display in crimson, there are so many annual activities that we will be missing this year. Below are the currently cancelled events and traditions that we can't do for Chinese New Year 2021, and we've also added some recommendations and alternative ways to celebrate instead. 

RECOMMENDED: Visit our regularly updated guide to keep up with the latest CNY happenings in the city.   

Things we will miss this year for CNY

CNY parade in Tsim Sha Tsui
CNY parade in Tsim Sha Tsui
Photograph: Courtesy Hong Kong Tourism Board

Chinese New Year Parade

Chinese New Year festivities usually kick off with the annual night parade in Tsim Sha Tsui. Featuring massive floats, costumes, acrobats, lion and dragon dances, and various performances, the parade is attended by hordes of locals and visitors who want to witness the spectacle. This year, it is the second time the parade will not commence since its inception in 1996 as it was also cancelled last year due to the city's political situation.  

What to do instead: As the Spring Festival approaches, incredible CNY-themed decorations and displays have started popping up all around town, we may not see lion dances and parades, but you can still enjoy elaborate CNY displays all around town. Whether you're into Disney characters, Lego figurines, or grand flower displays, click this link for our roundup of the best places with the most festive CNY decorations this year. 

Hong Kong fireworks at Victoria Harbour
Hong Kong fireworks at Victoria Harbour
Photograph: Michael Elleray

Fireworks display over Victoria Harbour

One of the most popular Chinese New Year activities is watching the fireworks over Victoria Harbour. Thousands of spectators line up the harbourfront and rooftop venues get fully booked to watch the blazing spectacle between Tsim Sha Tsui and Central. But like the New Year fireworks for 2021, this year's fireworks display has been cancelled. 

What to do instead: Hong Kong Tourism Board is planning an online and offline event to replace the celebration. Visit this page to get updates on the activities. 

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Chinese New Year Flower Market
Chinese New Year Flower Market
Photograph: Shutterstock

Chinese New Year Flower Market

Things to do Markets and fairs

The annual CNY traditions wouldn't be complete without a visit to one of the city's flower markets featuring bountiful offerings of orchid, cherry blossoms, daffodils, and other festive blooms. Running alongside the flower market in Victoria Park is the night market, selling everything from quirky products to politically satirical toys. Earlier this month all 15 Chinese New Year Markets originally scheduled to take place in February have been cancelled due to recent developments in the pandemic. However, according to updates from the government, Lunar New Year's Eve fairs will still go ahead as scheduled but will run under a more stringent crowd-control measure to minimise public gathering. Only half of the stalls originally allocated will operate and with shorter opening hours. 

What to do instead: If you want to avoid the crowd we've rounded up a list of alternative places where you can get flowers, nibbles, and other knick-knacks for Chinese New Year. 

Lam Tsuen wishing tree
Lam Tsuen wishing tree
Photograph: Shutterstock

Lam Tsuen Well-Wishing Festival

Attractions Tai Po

One of the age-old traditions of Chinese New Year in Hong Kong is a visit to the wishing tree in Tai Po where people can write wishes on a placard, tie it to a mandarin, which is considered an auspicious fruit, and throw it on the tree to make a wish. This year, for the first time in 11 years, the wishing tree will be barricaded, and the Well-Wishing Festival at Lam Tsuen will be cancelled to avoid further infections in the city. 

What to do instead: You can buy fruits and flowers to decorate your home to welcome the best fortune for the Lunar New Year. Purchase these auspicious decorations from CNY flower markets or various alternative shops around town. You can also head to various CNY-themed pop-ups around the city to send out your wishes for a prosperous year. Drop by at the Garden of Wishes in Landmark, OP Mall in Tsuen Wan and wish under the Blushing Wishing Tree, or visit Tsuen Wan Plaza for their wishing pavilion. 

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Tin Lung Heen
Tin Lung Heen
Photograph: Courtesy Tin Lung Heen

Huge family gatherings 

Chinese New Year is a time for families and one of the most significant parts of welcoming the new year is the Chinese New Year's Eve dinner with your loved ones. With social distancing further extended and ban on dining services after 6pm with limited seating of up to two people remains, the annual family reunion might be a limited one. The silver-lining? At least you won't get the annual "why are you still single?" question from your nosy aunties. 

What to do instead: You can still bring the celebrations at home instead – though huge family gatherings might be lessened to those staying in one household – if you're gearing up for the feasts, click here to find the most exciting CNY menus available for delivery in Hong Kong.

Wong Tai Sin Temple
Wong Tai Sin Temple
Photograph: Courtesy cc/flickr/Bailey Cheng

Visiting temples

Two temples in the city that usually attract big crowds during Chinese New Year will not be pushing through with some of the traditional CNY religious activities. For the first time in its 99-year history, one of Hong Kong's largest Taoist temples Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin will skip the ritual of burning the inaugural incense stick for CNY. Meanwhile, Che Kung Temple in Sha Tin, will not be holding the drawing of divination sticks on February 13. 

What to do instead: The two temples mentioned above will remain open, but people who visit the temples during the CNY period will be required to use Hong Kong's contact-tracing app and register their personal information within the temple. For other places of worship to visit, check our guide to Hong Kong's temples. Please check for opening hours before visiting as venues might change operation due to the social distancing regulations. 

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The Stewards' Cup, Centenary Sprint Cup, and HK Classic Mile horse race
The Stewards' Cup, Centenary Sprint Cup, and HK Classic Mile horse race
Photograph: Courtesy The Hong Kong Jockey Club

Hong Kong Jockey Clubs’ Chinese New Year Race Day

In the New Territories, Sha Tin Racecourse hosts an annual Chinese New Year Race Day, and visitors can try their luck at the races and kick off the new year with some thrilling horseracing action. This year, not everyone will be admitted to the racecourse and celebratory programmes usually filled with lion dances and ceremonies with celebrity jockeys will not be held. Horse racing on February 6, 10, 14, and 17 will run under special arrangements. And only the trainers, jockeys, club officials, and essential personnel, stewards, owners, and voting members – with seasonal tables and their family members – are allowed to enter the venue. 

What to do instead: For more information on the programmes, visit this page. Hong Kong Jockey Club prepared a special CNY race day website to keep the public engaged with virtual tours, videos, and other online programmes that people can safely enjoy from the comforts of home. 

More about the Lunar New Year festivities in Hong Kong

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