Vendors on Cat Street on Hong Kong Island sell Halloween costumes and other spooky goods. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.
Holidays and Festivals
The celebration of Halloween in Hong Kong got its start in the then British Crown Colony’s premier dining and entertainment district, Lan Kwai Fong, about 25 years ago. It has grown into the year’s biggest street party. Here’s how it all got started.
In the early days, a small handful of expats would show up at their favourite drinking holes in Lan Kwai Fong on 31 October wearing witches hats or face masks. Everyone else just wore normal attire.
Word slowly spread among the Chinese community, and locals started showing up to witness what in the early years was a rather low key spectacle.
Market-savvy street vendors and some stationery shops even started selling Halloween costumes and related items.
Year by year, the throngs got larger, and slowly more and more people – both Chinese and expat – started showing up in costume.
Crowd control measures were instituted by the then Royal Hong Kong Police, forcing celebrants to move through Lan Kwai Fong – Hong Kong’s premier entertainment district – in an orderly fashion, much to the amusement of the drinkers watching from the inside of bars.
Some people couldn’t wait for Halloween itself. So if it fell on a weeknight, celebrants would start showing on the the weekend before.
Eventually, a few of the locals started showing up in costume themselves. Nowadays, Halloween has evolved into one of Hong Kong’s biggest and most popular celebrations.
You will find celebrants dressed up as ghosts, goblins, and witches. Making the holiday their own, some local celebrants wear costumes representing figures in Chinese mythology. Others make themselves up to look like accident victims.
Others, however, stick to the holiday’s Western roots, showing up in costumes with a Western theme such as Super Heroes and other cartoon characters.
You can celebrate Halloween in Lan Kwai Fong, SoHo, and Wanchai as well as at Hong Kong Disneyland and Ocean Park, where the Halloween parties start more than two weeks before the event.
Most of Hong Kong’s tertiary institutions also have Halloween parties on campus in student dorms.
You might even find shoppers at Hong Kong’s toniest shopping mall decked out in Halloween finery.
The Hong Kong Tourism Board started promoting Halloween as a “tourist attraction” a few years back – along with such traditional Chinese holidays as Chinese New Year, the Dragon Festival, and the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Halloween has, in fact, proved highly popular with tourists from other parts of Asia. Chinese, Japanese, and Korean tourists seem to find it particularly interesting.
Not surprisingly, other Asian cities are starting to stage Halloween celebrations events of their own.
But it started in Hong Kong about 25 years ago with a handful of expats wearing witches hats or face masks in the open air bars of Lan Kwai Fong.
Writes M. in Hong Kong:
Wow! Already looking forward to that. I will be in Saikung this year.
21 October 2010 (via email)
Accidental Travel Writer Responds:
With so many parties going on all over town, it’s hard to decide where to go.