Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Cheung Chau Bun Festival

The Cheung Chau Bun Festival is an annual festival held on the small island of Cheung Chau, in Hong Kong. The festivities include floating children, and a mad scramble up 60 feet for "lucky" buns.

"Lucky" Buns
Photo Credit: Tangerine Violets
This festival was traditionally a rural festival, held by the fishing communities to pray for safety from pirates and plague. They dressed as different gods and paraded along the streets to frighten off evil spirits. These days it's a celebration of Chinese culture, that coincides with Buddha's birthday. Tens of thousands of people attend.

The festival lasts for a week, and for three days everyone becomes vegetarian. In fact, even the MacDonalds replaces their hamburgers with mushroom burgers!

Activities abound throughout the week, including lion dances, stilt walking, much drum and cymbal beating (to ward off evil spirits), acrobatics and opera.

Photo Credit: Laszlo Ilyes
Near the end of the festival, they have the Piu Sik (Floating Colors) parade. This procession is a reenactment of the original ceremonial processions that were done to ward off the plague. In the Piu Sik parade, along with lion dancing and gongs, children of 5-6 years old are dressed up as deities and, balancing on invisible poles, seemingly float above the parade.

The children sit on a seat attached to a steal pole, hidden inside the costume
Photo Credit: Tommy Wong
Cheung Chau "Lucky" buns have been blessed and on the last day, are handed out to people. These are steamed sweet buns, with red bean, sesame, and lotus bean pastes. They are stamped in red food coloring with the characters for "peace".

(If you'd like to make your own lucky buns, you can try our recipe here.)

Lucky buns
Photo Credit: Tomoaki Inaba
At midnight on the last night, there is the bun scrambling competition. The bun tower, a 60 foot/14 meter tower covered in 9000 imitation buns stands tall, and is climbed by a dozen competitors with baskets around their waists to fill with as many buns as possible, with the higher buns worth more points. The race lasts for 3 minutes. 

Bun Tower
Photo Credit: Leung Man Chan
Traditionally, the tower was a bamboo tower covered in real buns, and the men raced to the top to get the buns at the top which would provide the most fortune for their family. In 1978, one tower collapsed and injured hundreds of people. The race was discontinued until reinstated in 2005 with extra precautions - the tower is now made of steel, and the contestants take a mountaineering course prior to the race. 

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