Enter the Dragon: tens of thousands flock to first Lunar New Year parade in Hong Kong in 5 years

Here are updates from Saturday’s spectacle:

‘Performances reminded me of home’

Postgraduate student Bite Meng, 29, from Beijing, spent her first Lunar New Year in Hong Kong and arrived for the parade before 5pm with a friend to secure a good spot. She said the cold weather did not bother her much coming from an area prone to snow.

The LA Rams Cheerleaders are among the performers. Photo: Eugene Lee

“There were these dance performances of ethnic minorities from China. They reminded me of home,” Meng said. “I also really liked the East-meets-West elements of the parade.”

However, she said she was not aware the parade was only on the opposite side of Nathan Road from where she stood, which took away from the experience. Meng also said she wished there had been more floats.

Student Bite Meng (left), with a friend, says the dance acts reminded her of home. Photo Ambrose Li

Feel-good factor

Local couple Wilson and Catherine Wong enjoyed the bustling atmosphere of the parade and were most excited about Avantgardey’s performance.

“We arrived in Tsim Sha Tsui at around 7.15pm,” Catherine, 50, said. “But there were too many people and we couldn’t see much, so we went and grabbed some food and came back.”

Wilson, 52, added: “There are more people from the mainland here. It doesn’t feel like there are that many Hongkongers.”

Local couple Wilson and Catherine Wong say the line-up was bigger this time. Photo: Ambrose Li

The couple, who run their own business, agreed the line-up was bigger than previous editions and that it was a positive thing to be able to host a large-scale event again after five years.

“It’s important that tourists feel that they had fun and will tell others when they get home. That way, more people will come to visit and stay for longer, which will benefit Hong Kong’s economy,” Wilson said.

Spreading good fortune

The parade ended with the Tourism Board’s float, which featured vibrant colours and a magnificent dragon with auspicious windmills. It appeared with Jennifer Lopez’s “Let’s Get Loud” blaring in the background.

The board, organiser of the parade, hoped the colourful dragon, soaring into the night sky, could spread good fortune to every corner of Hong Kong.

Bobbing about

Osaka group Avantgardey was among the last handful of performers, and perhaps one of the most anticipated of the night.

The girls performed fast-paced moves while maintaining their signature poker-faced glances while dressed in costumes modelled after Japanese school uniforms.

The girls from Avantgardey are known for their synchronised dance moves. Photos: Eugene Lee

The group, known for synchronised dance moves and comedic expressions, has earned global recognition on TikTok and Instagram as the “Mysterious school-uniformed and bobbed-hair group”.

Avantgardey was founded in February 2022 after choreographer Akane, who is famed for “bubbly dance”, hand-picked participants from a TV talent show.

Maori culture showcased

Guitar-playing dancers from the Tumanako Maori Cultural Group showcased their culture with songs and chants dressed in red, white and black, the colours of the national Maori flag.

Tumanako is the Maori word for hope. The Maori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand.

The group featured dancers from Australia and New Zealand. The organiser said the group loved to share songs and dances unique to the Maori people.

In full plume

Spanish dancers in beautiful pink feathers wowed the crowd with their elaborate costumes as they sashayed along the parade route to energetic Latin music.

The stunning ensemble blended fuchsia and gold, with magnificent pink feathers in a frame around the dancers. The organiser said the outfits were all crafted from recycled materials.

Show-stopping costumes from Spain’s Golden Dream. Photo: Eugene Lee

Cherry blossoms celebrated in dance

The JYOSHO performers from Nisshin, a Japanese city near Nagoya, pulled off an instant costume change from green to pink in the middle of their dance.

The colourful and energetic performance of young dancers embodied the liveliness of youth and the fragile nature of the short-lived cherry blossom, the organiser said.

The group won the Grand Prize in the 2023 Nippon Domannaka Festival.

Feel the beat

Percussionists from the Hong Kong Percussion Academy Jr. Drumline were joined by Timba Batucada from the south of Spain, serving up an adrenaline-filled performance.

Carrying drums of different sizes, the two teams delivered a passionately choreographed segment, with the Spanish performers wearing handmade costumes.

Rainbow slide and inflatable animals

The city’s Ocean Park and Water World float featured animals such as pandas and dolphins with a colourful rainbow slide as a roof.

Dancers spun around holding large inflatable pandas, penguins and octopuses above their heads to showcase the animals the park is famed for.

South Korean group TAEKWONCRE hits the high spots. Photo: Eugene Lee

Spectators get their kicks

South Korean act TAEKWONCRE wowed the audience with exciting spins and kicks that left foam sheets scattered in mid-air.

The organiser said the group, which blends the country’s Taekwondo martial arts with creative performances, comprised veterans from the Korean national demonstration team, World Taekwondo Federation and K-Tigers. The group performed in India and Singapore last year to promote tourism in South Korea.

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When East meets West

Hailing from Italy, Carillon led the act with a ballerina dancing gracefully on top of a white piano playing the classic Mandarin pop song “The Moon Represents My Heart”.

The song was made famous in 1977 by Taiwanese singer Teresa Teng Li-chun, who was recognised as a cultural icon for her contributions to Chinese pop. She died in 1995.

A ballerina dances gracefully on a piano. Photo: Eugene Lee

Universe of Lights shines

Members of the Universe of Lights troupe from Germany showed off their dancing skills on stilts, all wearing fantastical costumes of white and holding large white balls, and wearing white crowns.

‘Smile even in difficult times’

Following the Disneyland float are brightly coloured performers from the MassKara Festival, which originated in Bacolod city in the Philippines.

The organiser said the large and colourful smiling masks served as a reminder that, even in the face of challenges, there was always something to smile about.

The Bacolod MassKara Festival was founded in the 1980s during a period of economic adversity and is now an annual event in the city.

Mickey Mouse and Goofy put on a show. Photo: Eugene Lee

Magic moments

Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Goofy were among the characters waving to the crowd on top of the Hong Kong Disneyland float.

Dressed in purple, dancers in capes joined other famous Disney characters on either side of the float.

Disneyland staff also made their way up to the spectators’ stand to hand out souvenirs to excited spectators.

Praise for spring river

The Guangxi Arts Troupe launched a Zhuang ethnic performance called “Praise to the Glorious Spring River” for the next act.

The dancers used drumming movements and waved red scarves to express praise for the motherland, accompanied by folk music in the background.

The chief executive was handed a ball-shaped prop by one of the dancers at the end of the performance.

The God of Wealth gets a loud cheer. Photo: Eugene Lee
Children join the God of Wealth on the parade. Photo: Eugene Lee

Good fortune

The third float featured Mr Men and Little Miss, which was followed by a performance by local group New Baby Junior Dance Crew.

A huge inflatable Chinese God of Wealth also joined the parade, earning loud applause from the audience.

An acrobatic performance from the Circus in Motion from the Netherlands concluded that section.

Spectators are treated to some energetic moves. Photo: Eugene Lee

Children bring out Macau float

Children dressed in traditional red Chinese costumes showed up energetically beside the second float, from Macau’s tourism office.

The casino town’s float was fronted by its tourism mascot “Mak Mak”, unveiled in 2018 and based on the endangered water bird black-faced spoonbill. The design also featured a dragon and oversized gold ingots.

Following Macau’s float were the LA Rams Cheerleaders, the cheerleading squad of the Los Angeles Rams of the US National Football League, and skipping rope performers from Hong Kong and Japan. The squad also took part in the parade in 2017.

The Hong Kong Rope Skipping club members were dressed in blue, pink and red. They danced whilst skipping in groups.

Cathay staff in their signature red uniforms join the parade. Photo: Eugene Lee

Cathay float kicks off parade

Kicking off the parade is the float of Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific, with the airline also the title sponsor of this year’s event.

The float features a dragon rising from an auspicious cloud. Its huge head and body is decorated with fan-shaped scales. The design also includes a plane flying over a globe at the back of the float.

The organiser said the design “showcases the convergence of tradition and progress”.

The float was accompanied by a dancing squad of ground and cabin crew wearing the airline’s traditional red uniform. The airline has sponsored the event for the 22nd consecutive year.

Chief Executive John Li officiates at the opening ceremony. Photo: Eugene Lee

City leader highlights parade’s international flavour

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu addressed the audience in Cantonese, Mandarin and English before officiating at the parade’s opening ceremony.

He said the spectacular display would highlight the diversity of Hong Kong where Chinese and Western cultures converged, as well as the extraordinary charm of the city’s high degree of internationalisation.

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Speaking in Mandarin, he encouraged tourists to stay in Hong Kong for a few more days and engage in “citywalk”, a term common with mainland Chinese internet users.

“We are all here to welcome the Year of the Dragon … it’s going to be a year of auspicious opportunities,” he said.

In his English speech, Lee said: “We’re all here to welcome the Year of the ‘Loong’. In Chinese culture, the ‘loong’ – people usually call it the dragon – symbolises nobility, good fortune and vitality.

“It’s going to be a year of auspicious opportunities, and dragon-sized blessings for us all!

Performers entertained the crowds along the route from 6pm. Photo: Eugene Lee

Early birds

Happy to have secured a spot on Nathan Road outside The Peninsula hotel was businessman Raymond Chiu, who arrived at about 5.30pm with his wife and son.

“I’m very excited the parade has resumed after five years,” the 63-year-old said. “Having more events in Hong Kong is what everyone wants to see.”

Chiu has been a keen spectator of the parade and used to buy a ticket for the seated area, but he missed the window to grab a ticket online this year.

“There are more people than I expected, I’m here more than two hours before the parade commences,” he said, who came with his camper chairs.

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First-timer Christie Simpson moved to Hong Kong from the UK two weeks ago for a teaching position and arrived in Tsim Sha Tsui at about 5.45pm.

“I want to see the culture, the dressing up, the float, the colours, and the dragons,” the 29-year-old said. “I feel like a big kid.”

Excited about her first Lunar New Year in Hong Kong, she also made it a point to go around the city to look at the festive decorations.

Street party groups enter Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui for the parade. Photo: Eugene Lee

Some MTR exits closed as crowds gather

Crowd control measures are being imposed in Tsim Sha Tsui as crowds gather ahead of the parade.

Rail operator the MTR Corporation announced that five exits in Tsim Sha Tsui and Tsim Sha Tsui East stations – D1, H, R, L3 and L4 – had been temporarily closed as part of crowd control measures.

Parts of Canton Road, Haiphong Road and Nathan Road, as well as the section of Salisbury Road between Chatham Road South and the Star Ferry Pier closed to traffic from 3.30pm. Roads are expected to reopen before midnight.

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People gathered early hoping to bag top viewing spots for the parade. Photo: Eugene Lee

Dragon floats

Nine floats – many showcasing the dragon theme – will join the extended procession of performance groups, carrying messages of good fortune and health as the city rings in the new lunar year.

The floats, including those by the “Mr Men and Little Miss” franchise, Hong Kong Disneyland, Hong Kong Jockey Club and Macau’s Tourism Office, among others, will embark on the same route used in previous parades.

They start from the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and head to Canton Road, Haiphong Road and Nathan Road, before ending at the Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel and Towers.

Smiles all round as the show gets under way. Photo: Eugene Lee

Let the show begin

Thirteen local performance groups kicked off the festivities ahead of the procession, with dance, magic and music shows, as well as freestyle football games, to entertain those who arrived early.

Spectators will enjoy the show in slightly warmer weather. According to a real-time weather report, it was 16 degrees Celsius around Tsim Sha Tsui at 6.30pm, five degrees higher than the Observatory’s original forecast.


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