By Ilona Kauremszky

Q: I understand in Chinese culture, it's the Year of the Goat. I'm sure there will be festivals planned throughout the Orient but I'd like to know what sorts of things Hong Kong has planned?

A: Well, you are correct. According to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, the first day of the first moon marks the beginning of the New Year and is scheduled on February 1st, 2003. Be prepared for a cornucopia of festivities throughout the Orient, especially in Hong Kong since it prides itself as the "World Capital" for Chinese New Year celebrations. In fact, Hong Kong radiates in a rainbow of festive color, giving travelers a unique opportunity to view some brilliant hues not to mention observing some magnificent costumes and other traditions.

For instance, plum blossoms, lucky kumquat plants and delicate narcissi are favorites at the flower markets. Here's a quick list on some of the events: In its fifth season, airline company, Cathay Pacific is heading up a parade fittingly called, "The Cathay Pacific International Chinese New Year Parade" scheduled on February 1st in which a throng of participants in elaborate costumes will revel alongside a magnificent flotilla of colorful floats along the Wan Chai waterfront. Spectators can find free spots wherever possible or purchase a $40CDN ticket for a spectator stand seat.

On February 2, the Victoria Harbour will be beautifully lit as fireworks cascade into the evening starlight. It's reported that over half a million bystanders gather to experience this annual lightshow extravaganza. For the best viewing spots, the Hong Kong Tourism Board recommends the Starr Ferry, Victoria Peak or along the waterfronts of Hong Kong Island or Kowloon.

Since Hong Kongers' favorite pasttime is horseracing, what a way to herald in the New Year but with a visit to the tracks. On February 3rd, expect one of the biggest racing days where bidders pack the Sha Tin Racetrack.

Also, one quick phrase worth knowing is "Kung Hey Fat Choy" or Happy New Year. Just remember, nearly everyone in Hong Kong will be on holiday so expect thousands of spectators to show up for any planned function.

For more details on the New Year's activities, contact the HKTB in Toronto at 416-366-2389 or toll-free at 1-800-563-4582.


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All text & photos 2004.