My Life at Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong 2011-2013

As every year, the legendary mid-autumn festival has hit Hong Kong with all its charm. We have two extra days off school and celebrated all weekend together with this beautiful city and of course, we ate tons of moon cakes! Mid-autumn festival in Hong Kong is always a big deal; people celebrate the event with lots of art and cultural performances, the most well-known one being the fire dragon dance in Tai Hang in Central. 300 performers, a nearly 70 meter long dragon and 72’000 incense sticks lighting up the street – this is exactly what I went to see in action on sunday night. 

It might be a cliché that every part of Asia is crowded to bits, but it is indeed the case in Hong Kong. The streets were overfilled with people. As we LPC students came in a group, it was especially hard to move forward without getting separated. Yet we managed to push our way through, earning dozens of angry stares and even more rib punches by people who followed our example. Eventually we found our way into the street, where the fire dragon was prepared. The performers had lit fires in the middle of the street, burning stacks of incense sticks and thrusting them into the over 60 meter long body of the dragon. 

After the smoke deriving from the hundreds of incense sticks became unbearable for us students, we left the backstreet and made our way to the main performance street. A huge crowd of people had gathered along the barriers already, excited and impatient for the dragon’s arrival. However, the fire dragon was brought to all the surrounding backstreets first and came to the main street last. So whenever the audience around the big street saw only a glimpse of the dragon’s smoke or swirling tail, they cheered and applauded really wildly and loudly, just to fall back into tense silence and waiting-mode again afterwards. To pass the time, we watched the children’s lantern march instead, where the kids proudly balanced huge paper lanterns, with Chinese symbols printed on them, in their hand. 

Also, a dozen cute young girls came along, all dressed up in Chinese national costumes. They ran around the street, offering incense sticks that had fallen off the dragon to the spectators and dancing around with pink lotus lanterns in their hands. 

After we had waited for about an hour for the legendary fire dragon to arrive, suddenly we heard incredibly loud cheers and screams. Heavy smoke and the smell of burned wood filled the crowded street, and the three hundred Chinese men of every age ran in, carrying the huge dragon over their sweating heads and shoulders. First came two gigantic smoking balls, swirling over the street and immediately followed by the gigantic head of the dragon, then came the 60 meter long tail and finally the leaf-shaped end of the dragon passed the waiting crowd. I stood in the first row, so I could even see the teeth of the dragon!

The tail of the dragon was so long, that when it passed in front of my camera, it felt like hours were going by! Everybody around me cheered and clapped for the dragon dancers; people were climbing up the light poles and walls of surrounding houses, just to see better. I was very lucky to stand in the front: when I was in the third line, I could not see anything of what was going on outside on the street, because everybody was holding up cameras and mobile phones. The the sight was completely blocked! When the fire dragon performance ended and the incense sticks were taken off the dragon, they were distributed to the audience and I was given three! Now they hang over my desk – hopefully they will bring me luck! 

After the fire dragon performance in Tai Hang, we left for the lantern festival in a nearby park next to the public library in Hong Kong. Once again, it was crowded till the edge. There were several booths from different organizations advertising themselves and fundraising for various causes; a puppet show which seemed very close to a puppet singing a Chinese opera; another puppet show presenting a Chinese dance performance; a women on stage, singing high-pitched Chinese songs; several lantern stands and much more.  Couples took pictures together in front of everything that was colorful and glittery. The elderly listened in awe to the puppet opera. Children ran around with lit lanterns in every form and color: rabbits, dragons, airplanes, … the variety was astonishing! 

The smiles on the people’s faces were too big, too meaningful to be described by any words. The atmosphere on the streets, in the park and even in the MTR was fascinatingly happy and cheerful. People laughed and danced, had their meals together on the street and lit candles and lanterns anywhere. And everywhere it smelled of incense sticks. The air was full of joy and ease and for a while we all forgot about LPC, about the IB, essays and uni applications that were waiting for us back on campus – we just let ourselves drown in the exotic atmosphere, knowing well that this would probably be the last Mid-Autumn Festival we’d ever see in Hong Kong. It was totally worth going.

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