When it comes to romance, there’s a little something we could all learn from Hong Kong. Not to say that the West’s own Valentine’s Day doesn’t ooze of romance – there’s something to be said for chocolate and flowers, after all – but in the glittering metropolis nestled along China’s southern coast, romance takes on vibrant new levels.
Following every lunar new year, Hong Kong’s decidedly more colourful version of the Hallmark holiday kicks off with the beginning of the Spring Lantern Festival. Between the thousands of ornate and towering “lanterns” shaped like dragons and flowers littering the city, local singles spill out onto the roads, lantern in hand, ready to meet their better half.
Affectionately known as “Hong Kong’s Valentine’s Day”, the Spring Lantern Festival is one of the most colourful times of the year. For couples, it’s a perfect time to enjoy a city glittering with lights – but for singles, the Lantern Festival is the best time of year to find love. But unlike Valentine’s Day, the Spring Lantern Festival owes its romantic traditions not to a greeting card company, but to a long history of love and matchmaking in mainland China.
Oranges, Riddles and Matchmaking Games
Only a few centuries ago, the 15th day of the new lunar year marked the beginning of the Lantern Festival in China, and one of the busiest days for matchmakers in the country. On the evening of the festival, single women in search of spouses would spill onto the streets and to local celebrations with a lantern in hand – a rare treat, since most young women at the time were not allowed out of doors late into the night. The Lantern Festival marked one of the only times that young men and women had the chance to meet outside the confines of a family arrangement, and a fleeting time to search for the perfect match.
For women, the brightest lanterns promised a bright future, and the glow of a lantern served as a beacon for eligible bachelors to follow. Not to leave the matchmaking to chance, though, single women would also carry with them a single orange to throw into a nearby river or lake! Those oranges that were picked up were considered lucky – and promised a lucky (and soon-to-be married) future for the single women who threw it. For men, riddles attached to lanterns provided the perfect opportunity to demonstrate their literacy and wit – not to mention their eligibility as suitors. All the while, busy matchmakers would be hard at work finding the perfect matches among the masses – a tradition that earned the festival the reputation as being the most romantic day of the year.
Experiencing the Lantern Festival Today
Nowadays, few in Hong Kong are likely to throw oranges into a lake – but haven’t gone so far as to abandon the traditions altogether. In both China and Hong Kong, the Lantern Festival has since adapted to a festival aimed at children – but only in Hong Kongis love and flirting are still a big part of the festivities, alongside the family-friendly activities!
Some of the festival’s traditional activities still remain – including riddles attached to lanterns and matchmaking games for local singles – but the festival has since transformed into a beautiful celebration that even couples and families can enjoy. In modern Hong Kong, the best places to experience the colour of the festival is in local parks and open areas large enough to display the monstrous lanterns of the season.
In 2015, the Spring Lantern Festival kicks off on the evening of Thursday, March 5th. The festival promises some of the most beautiful and downright ostentatious lantern displays. For the very best views, head to some of these spots to enjoy the festivities.
Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza
Every year, Hong Kong’s Cultural Centre will host some of the biggest and most ornate lantern displays, simply because they have the space! Count on seeing soaring dragons, beautiful trees and plenty giant sheep lanterns to symbolize the Year of the Goat!
Tsim Sha Tsui
This location in the Kowloon area is one of the best places to take in the festivities, thanks to its bustling streets and even more spectacular views. For the very best look at the lights, hop on board the Star Ferry from Hong Kong toward Tsim Sha Tsui – you’ll find the sunset views along the way almost as great as the lanterns themselves!
For a sky-high view of the Lantern Festival in full swing, head to the InterContinental. From here, you’ll find almost completely unobstructed views of the bustling streets below, and you’ll likely get to take in the views of the lanterns from a safe distance while sipping cocktails. Plus, if romance really is your focus of the evening of the Lantern Festival, this is the perfect place to find it!
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