Hong Kong does very well for public holidays as the government acknowledges the many different religious needs of the populace. There are two types of holidays - statutory holidays and public holidays, when all banks and major institutions of Hong Kong are closed.
Your domestic helper is entitled to have the statutory days off, but the majority of expats also allow them the public holidays too. The main celebrations of the year are the Chinese New Year and Christmas.
The usual public holidays are:
- New Year's Day Jan 1st
- Chinese Lunar New Year Late January/early February
- Easter days March/April
- Ching Ming usually near Easter
- Labour Day May 1st
- Buddha’s Birthday May/June
- Tuen Ng June
- HKSAR Establishment Day July 1st
- Mid-autumn Festival September/October
- Chinese National Day October 1st
- Chung Yeung Mid October
- Christmas Day & Boxing Day December 25th & 26th
Other than Chinese New Year which is certainly the main event of the annual calendar, the special holidays are:
Graves of ancestors are cleaned; food and wine are left for the spirits. Incense and paper are burned to reach the dead, and this holiday marks a time for a visit to the cemeteries, to communicate with the dead and to ensure that they are satisfied with their descendants.
Tuen Ng (Dragon Boat Festival)
This is said by some to be in honour of Chu Yuan, a minister of the Emperor in the fourth century BC, who drowned himself to protest against corruption in government. His friends threw cakes into the water to divert the fish, and used paddles to create waves to scare them away. Dragon boat races are held all over the territory, with the principal expat races being at Stanley main beach.
Also known as Lantern Festival, this is one of the most appealing of Chinese traditional festivals. Shops are filled with paper lanterns in bright colours and many shapes and whole families, including the children gather in the parks, beaches and high places waving lanterns lit with small candles. They congregate in places where they will get a clear view of the largest moon of the year - our Harvest Moon. It is a tradition to give and eat Moon Cakes made of heavy pastry and egg yolks at this time.
Another major festival of the dead. It is said that a man following the advice of a sage took his family to a high place. On returning, they found floods and sickness had destroyed everything. On this holiday, everyone visits mountain tops to ward off future disasters. Graves of ancestors are also visited, swept and honoured. For more information on the meanings of the local festivals contact the HK Tourism Board Visitors Centre - 2508 1234 located at the Tsim Sha Tsui side of the Star Ferry and at the Peak Piazza, or visit Discover Hong Kong website.