I was really excited about going to Hong Kong, especially during the Mid Autumn Festival. It’s like Thanksgiving and New Year’s wrapped into a single holiday. Basically, everyone takes time off (China regulates that) and visits family, goes on holiday and generally just has a nice, relaxing time off. They have special foods for it, too, and there are always things going on to help celebrate.
Before I even got to HK, I was reading up on things to do there and came across a listing for a huge party and celebration that was set to take place in Victoria Park, one of the largest and certainly the most popular park in the city. It happened to be while I was going to be there, so I made a note of it, so that I could attend.
I was really excited for this. I love going to places and seeing and / or participating in local traditions, and this seemed like it was going to be a great one! In fact, the information page that I saw touted it as one of the largest celebrations of the entire festival. So, as you can imagine, I had high hopes.
I happened to run into another foreigner (an American) while I was wandering around earlier that day and, since that was a rarity in HK for some random reason, the two of us decided to get together later that night to go to dinner and generally just hang out after the humidity settled down to a nice, tolerable swelter, rather than an out-and-out sauna.
We had already wandered around one of the larger outdoor street markets, which was fun, albeit filled with cheaply-made stuff that I didn’t want to waste my money on, so we decided to go to the festival in the park and then grab some dinner. We took a cab to the park and followed a procession of what seemed like millions of people headed to what we assumed would be the celebration.
Once we got there, well . . . what can I say? When in Malta, there is rarely a night when there isn’t a festival celebration of some kind and those parties are rowdy, loud and last into the wee hours, filled with fun, food and fireworks. In Italy on New Year’s Eve, the party in Venice spread across the entire city, with music and lights and people shouting and having a great time. In HK for the Mid Autumn Festival celebration in Victoria Park, there was . . um . . well, there were some lovely lanterns hanging up in the trees. There were also some random lit-up giant cartoon characters that everyone was taking photos with, but that was about it. Really. A couple of places to get some questionable food and really, both of us were a little disappointed.
But the strangest thing was yet to come. We hung around and wandered, taking photos, for about 30 minutes, when we started to hear music swelling a little bit. We saw some people start to form a circle around the source of the music, so naturally, we decided to join them. Then we looked at each other. And looked at the crowd, and then the source of the music, and then each other again.
Now, when you think of China, of HK and of Asia in general, and especially when you think of music, what comes to mind? That strange Chinese Opera singing that is so quintessential? Possibly, K-Pop? Well, yes, that’s what I think that the two of us really thought of.
Here, though, we had not any of that. What we had was – that’s right – bagpipes! A full-on, loud, traditional bagpipe band – complete with kilts! And everyone was watching them, clapping, taking photos, swaying to the “beat.” Huh? Okay, I get it – kinda. HK was a part of Britain up until just a decade or so ago. But still – this wasn’t a British festival that we were celebrating here – this was a Chinese Mid Autumn Festival.
Yeah. I don’t get it. And were they even British-looking people playing those bagpipes? Nope. Chinese / HK people. Interesting. And the strangest part of all was that, after the grand build up in the music, instead of a great crescendo that ends in a ‘Ode To Joy’ sort-of ending, it basically just waned and eventually died down. No grand finale, no ending. No sending up of lanterns or fireworks.
And in minutes, everyone had started to walk away. Nothing left. No remnants even that such an event took place. Just a bunch of people walking to dinner, or to home, or somewhere else. So strange.
I feel like I should go back there just to see if that same thing happens again. If they have something more up their sleeve if I stay another day. If there is a secret, hidden celebration that they don’t want foreigners to witness that is far more interesting. It has happened to me before (see: New Year’s Eve in Venice on Giudecca). Just interesting . . .