27 November, 2013
Hong Kong has done it again. Before getting into the ‘winter’ holiday season of parties, festivals, and specialty markets, this energized city managed to squeeze in yet another party – ‘Carnival‘! Last week, I posted about ‘Mardi Gras‘ in Victoria Park, which was really not Mardi Gras at all, but quite charmingly, an arts festival focused on kids. But anyone who knows the ‘hood of Lan Kwai Fong (LKF), where Carnival was held this past weekend, knows that pretty much anything based there will indeed be a full-on party. Carnival was no exception – with a few cultural surprises thrown in for good measure.
To be fair, unlike the prior weekend’s event, Carnival here did bear some slight resemblance to the Carnival celebrations you probably know about in for example, Brazil. There were short, high-energy parades with gorgeous Brazilian samba dancers, accompanied by African musicians, who also performed again separately. That’s pretty much where the reference to more established Carnival celebrations ended, though.
The rest was done with a very HK (and LKF) twist. This year’s Carnival included a somewhat humorously and quite illogically named ‘Fiesta de Hong Kong’ element on ‘Hong Kong Street’, a throwback to 1970s HK with a neon banner, bamboo scaffolding (which still permeates HK construction sites today, to my astonishment), traditional snacks (with names like ‘dragon’s beard candy’ – a crunchy, cotton-candy-like confection made with spun sugar, peanuts, sesame seeds, and coconut), and various collectors’ items from decades past.
‘Pineapple-bun’ eating contests were held – another apparent misnomer in HK culture, as there is no pineapple within. These were unsurprisingly a little disappointing to watch, and I felt a bit badly for the contestants who were randomly selected from onlookers. It was sort of a ‘I binged on pineapple buns and beer, and all I got for it was this stupid T-shirt’ type of experience.
Of course, the area was replete with street food and endless stalls with mostly young ladies hawking beer. Come on, this is LKF, after all – what did you expect?
Although I fully expected an ‘adults-only’ atmosphere, there were numerous kid-friendly activities. Wo On Lane was turned into Kids’ Street in the afternoons, complete with interactive games and a full throng of larger-than-life cartoon characters hamming it up for photos. Habitat for Humanity also set up shop, including a station where visitors could hand-decorate ornaments.
If you can get past all of the improperly named aspects, very loose interpretations, and somewhat awkward cultural mergings of these recent celebrations, these were actually quite fun and worth a visit in future years, even if just to soak up some of the festive atmosphere. Admittedly, the relatively token, local HK cultural elements were a bit like having vegetables with your steak – sort of pointless, but it might make you feel a bit better for indulging! If drinking all afternoon (and/or night) is not really your thing (it’s not mine, either), ‘Mardi Gras’ and afternoon-only explorations of ‘Carnival’ will still entertain and are very family-friendly.
See you there next year! Vê-lo no próximo ano! 明年再见…
For my post on ‘Mardi Gras’, click here.