Tin Hau Festival – Honoring the Goddess of the Sea
Although there are many legends and tales regarding the origins of Tin Hau, the Goddess of the Sea, it is generally accepted that she was born in the year 1098 AD into the Sung Dynasty. It is said that she was named Mo Niang and lived in the Pu Tien fishing village where she used her special abilities to predict weather conditions, keeping the sailors safe. Some say, Mo Niang could walk across water if given a straw mat and others say that she stood on the shore, during good and bad weather, to guide the boats home. Today, it is believed that she watches over fishermen and sailors, warding off illness and filling their nets with fish.
To pay respect to Tin Hau, Hong Kong celebrates the Tin Hau Festival every year, and the festival takes place everywhere, from towns to small villages. It is an opportunity for fishermen to thank the goddess for their safe keeping and good weather in the past year, and to ask for successful fishing, protection and safe returns during the coming year. The Tin Hau Festival is not only part of Hong Kong’s culture, but Tin Hau also plays a vital role in the beliefs of seafarers in Vietnam and in Macau.
The largest Tin Hau Temple, and where the biggest celebration gathering takes place, is in Joss House Bay, located in Sai Kung. Because of the influx of spectators and visitors, special ferries to Sai Kung are arranged on the day to transport the public. Fishermen decorate their boats in elaborate and colorful design, using flags, ribbons, pennants and paper, which is a breathtaking sight as the boats slowly drift towards the temple, where offerings are made to Tin Hau.
On terra firma massive and noisy parades fill the streets with brightly colored floats, breathtaking fireworks displays, drummers, and lion or dragon dances. Street vendors and food stalls line the pavements, and worshippers and spectators are swept up in the energetic vibe of celebration and laughter. This year, the extravaganza of color and excitement will take place on 28 April 2008, transforming Hong Kong into a spectacular celebration of safe seas and healthy catches.