After three years of travel restrictions due to the pandemic, millions of families around the world are celebrating the Lunar New Year more freely.
The Year of the Rabbit starts on Sunday, but a lot of preparations were in full swing last week in cities like Hong Kong. Since it began gradually reopening its borders with China earlier this month, Hong Kong has welcomed a flood of citizens traveling between the city and the mainland to celebrate the Spring Festival.
In mainland China, Chunyun, the 40-day period surrounding the festival, typically sees many people travel to their hometowns to be with their families. This event is sometimes referred to in the region as “the greatest migration in the world.” According to the Associated Press, Chinese travelers are staying closer to home this year, favoring Hong Kong and Macau over destinations such as Bangkok; Bali, Indonesia; and Hokkaido, Japan.
In Hong Kong, red and gold decorations dominate the markets as customers frantically search for the perfect festive orchid to ring in the New Year. The city is thriving and full of happy children.
Students of all ages are looking forward to vacation this week to celebrate and relax. Victoria Harbor has amazing art and light installation on the water. Tourist destinations such as the Peninsula Hotel are preparing for the number of visitors.
Within the Chinese Zodiac, the Year of the Rabbit is set to coincide with the Year of the Tiger. Across Hong Kong, images of bunnies cover paintings, stuffed animals and inflatable balloons, popping up in the same way that inflatable snowmen do on US front yards every Christmas.
In Chinese culture, the rabbit is considered the luckiest of all 12 animals. It symbolizes mercy, elegance and beauty. People born in the Year of the Rabbit are believed to be calm and peaceful.
For some people in Hong Kong, this Spring Festival is a long-awaited reunion with loved ones. Joyce Ma-Lachmann was born and raised in the city but moved to Germany last year after marrying her husband, Martin Lachmann.
“The festival is a bridge for our family, connecting one place to another and connecting the bloodlines.”
— Joyce Ma-Lachmann
The couple, who are expecting a baby, are back in the city to see their family after being separated for the past year. On Friday, they went to see the Che Kung Temple.
“The festival is a bridge for our family, connecting one place to another and connecting the bloodlines,” said Ma-Lachmann.
On Saturday, Nicholas Yeung and his girlfriend, Lara Lam, were preparing to leave Hong Kong for Macau, just a few hours away by shuttle bus. Lam is a Macau citizen who works in Hong Kong. The couple used to go to Macau every Lunar New Year for family gatherings, but stopped after China’s strict coronavirus protocols began.
Yeung was born and raised in Hong Kong, where he says his New Year’s celebrations were similar and different from his experience celebrating with the Lam family.
“The festive atmosphere and rich traditional customs of the Lunar New Year celebration have deteriorated due to the rapid processes of social changes such as urbanization, Westernization and modernization in Hong Kong,” said Yeung.
“For me, really, the Lunar New Year is just a great excuse to meet people and get together with those you love,” he said.