September is the perfect time to visit Hong Kong. Not only has the intense heat of summer passed, it is also when
the much loved Mid-Autumn
Festival takes place.
Held this year from 14 to 22
September, the city's most spectacular festival
bathes the landscape in a glow of colour, as lanterns of all shapes and sizes,
fiery dragon dances and moon cakes combine to create an enchanting fairytale land.
The festival’s roots lie in the
early Tang dynasty (618 to 907), when farmers made celebratory offerings to the
full moon as thanks for a bumper harvest. On 19 September, the eve of the full
moon, many people take to the streets or parks carrying lit paper lanterns
hooked over a thin bamboo stick (or the modern plastic equivalent). To join the fun, purchase an inexpensive lantern
from a convenience store and head to Victoria Park in
Causeway Bay or The Peak in
Central, two favoured spots to gather.
became part of the festival during the Yuan dynasty (1271 to1368). These small
but dense cakes filled with lotus paste and a whole egg-yolk centre symbolise
the full moon, and it is the accepted practice to share a cake with friends,
family and colleagues. You can also indulge in creative versions containing
everything from ice cream to Iberico ham and black truffle.
highlights include the Tai Hang dragon parade (18 to 20 September), featuring a
67m-long straw dragon lit with tens of thousands of incense sticks. Weaving its
way through the streets of Tai Hang in the Causeway Bay district – aided by 300
carriers – the parade is stunning and frenetic. It was started more than a
century ago; legend has it that performing a fire dance for three days and
nights prior to the mid-autumn full moon prevented both a typhoon and the plague.
New this year is a three-storey circular light
installation entitled Rising Moon, made from 7,000 plastic bottles and other
recyclable materials floating on a pool of water in Victoria Park. There will
also be displays of master craftsman-made lanterns in several locations,
including Victoria Park's Lantern Wonderland, where there will also be a market
selling handicrafts and festive foods.
Williams is the Hong Kong Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes sybariteunlimited.com.