Photos of the Festival and Bun Tower Climbing Competition:
The Bun Festival is local to the island of Cheung Chau only. Pak Tai, the Taoist God of the Sea is worshipped and evil spirits are scared away by loud gongs and drums during the procession.
The celebration includes Taoist praying, opera performances and ends with processions performed by children dressed in colorful costumes.
Bun towers are built with bamboo structures 60 foot high, piled with sweet buns, outside the Pak Tai temple. Since these buns are blessed, in the old days, people climbed up the bun towers and compete for buns at midnight on the first day of the festival. It was supposed to appease the spirits of the people who died in a 19th century plague on the island. Unfortunately, accident happened in 1978. The bun towers collapsed under the weight of too many climbers and more than 100 people were injured. Since then, there is no more competition. Buns are distributed to the believers after the ceremony. You can also buy these buns from local bakers.
The whole island will go vegetarian three days before the procession. You won’t find any meat and eggs in restaurants (not even MacDonald! In fact the Vegen-burger is not bad, they should considered including this in their regular menu.) Butchers simply have a few days’ rest. Most restaurants sell vegetarian dishes and some simply close. Non-believers have to buy meat from Hong Kong island on those few days! However, when the procession is finished, everything goes back to normal. In fact, believers will rush to roasted meat shops and buy roasted pigs or meat alike to worship their gods right after the procession. (see picture)
The procession is the best part of the festival. Different local communities arrange their own floats. Children are put onto a tiny seat attached to steel rods so that they look as though they are floating or standing high up on top of a pole. Colourful costumes help to cover up the seat. However, it’s still hard work for 5-year-olds under the hot 28C afternoon sun in May. The procession is carried out on the Buddhist birthday (public holiday) so that everybody can enjoy the festival. Before that, Cheung Chau schools simply closed on the procession days because the children were either participating in the procession or escaping from school so that they can watch!
Other links about Cheung Chau Bun Festival:
http://www.cheungchau.org/ – with lots of pictures and video clip