HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong’s colorful Bun Festival is back after three years of COVID-19 restrictions.
Visitors packed the small island of Cheung Chau to watch children parade in costumes and eat buns stamped with Chinese characters for “peace” and “safety”.
The highlight of the festival is a midnight bun-scrambling competition in which climbers climb a tower covered in plastic buns, trying to catch as many as they can. It was suspended for decades after an accident in 1978 when a collapse injured many people, and only restarted in 2005.
After COVID-19, the bun rush is back, but for this year it’s limited to a smaller tower.
The return of the festival is a sign that normal life is returning to Hong Kong after its strict pandemic restrictions.
During the parade, children dressed as legendary deities or historical figures are carried on bleachers above the heads of the crowd through the narrow lanes of the island.
This year, some wore firefighter costumes to pay tribute to the Hong Kong rescue teams who helped search for survivors of the earthquake in Turkey in February. Cantonese opera artists also staged performances in a bamboo theater.
“Everyone is so happy,” said Chow Hoi-kiu, a resident of Cheung Chau. “The artists are having a tough day. They started preparing for the day early. I’m sure it’s tough and so we’re here to watch and support them.”
There were long lines outside shops selling steamed buns and shops full of bun themed souvenirs.
Kwok Siu-kan, owner of Kwok Kam Kee Patisserie, said she hopes the buns will bring prosperity to people.
“If you eat the buns, you will have even more peace and security,” Kwok said.
The event, also known as the Cheung Chau Jiao Festival, has been celebrated for more than 100 years, according to the Intangible Cultural Heritage Bureau. He says that according to folklore, the locals started the rituals and traditions to dispel disaster and pray for blessings after the island was devastated by a plague.
Associated Press press assistant Annie Cheung contributed to this report.