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CHEUNG CHAU JIAO FESTIVAL. Hong Kongís colorful Bun Festival has returned after three years of COVID-19 restrictions. Visitors packed the tiny island of Cheung Chau to watch children parade in costumes and to eat buns stamped with the Chinese characters for "peace" and "safety." The event, also known as the Cheung Chau Jiao Festival, has been celebrated for more than 100 years, according to the Intangible Cultural Heritage Office. Pictured are participants in the Piu Sik Parade at the Bun Festival on Cheung Chau Island in Hong Kong on May 26, 2023. (AP Photo/Louise Delmotte)

PEACE & SAFETY. Visitors packed the tiny island of Cheung Chau last month to celebrate Hong Kongís colorful Bun Festival. Pictured are worshippers burning incense at a temple. (AP Photos/Louise Delmotte)

Visitors packed the tiny island of Cheung Chau last month to celebrate Hong Kongís colorful Bun Festival. Pictured are "Ping On" buns. (AP Photos/Louise Delmotte)

Visitors packed the tiny island of Cheung Chau last month to celebrate Hong Kongís colorful Bun Festival. Pictured is the midnight "bun-scrambling" competition in which climbers race up a tower covered with plastic buns, trying to grab as many as possible. (AP Photos/Louise Delmotte)

From The Asian Reporter, V33, #6 (June 5, 2023), pages 1, 3 & 4.

Colorful Bun Festival returns to Hong Kong after 3 years

By Louise Delmotte and Alice Fung

The Associated Press

HONG KONG ó Hong Kongís colorful Bun Festival is back after three years of COVID-19 restrictions.

Visitors packed the tiny island of Cheung Chau to watch children parade in costumes and to eat buns stamped with the Chinese characters for "peace" and "safety."

The festivalís highlight is a midnight "bun-scrambling" competition in which climbers race up a tower covered with plastic buns, trying to grab as many as possible. It was suspended for decades after an accident in 1978 when a collapse injured many, and only restarted in 2005.

The bun scramble has now returned, after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. For this year, it was limited to one smaller tower.

The festivalís comeback is a sign that normal life is returning to Hong Kong after tight pandemic restrictions.

During the parade, children dressed as legendary deities or historic characters were carried on stands above the heads of the crowd through the islandís narrow lanes.

Some wore firefighter costumes to pay tribute to the Hong Kong rescue crews who helped search for earthquake survivors in Turkey in February. Cantonese opera artists also staged performances in a bamboo theater.

"Everyone is so happy," said Cheung Chau resident Chow Hoi-kiu. "The performers are having a hard day. They started the dayís preparation early. Iím sure itís tough and so we are here to watch and support them."

There were long lines outside shops selling steam buns and stores stocked with bun-themed souvenirs.

Kwok Siu-kan, owner of the Kwok Kam Kee Cake Shop, said she hopes the buns will bring people prosperity.

"If you eat the buns, you will have even more peace and safety," 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 Office. It says that according to folklore, residents started the rituals and traditions to dispel disaster and pray for blessings after the island was devastated by a plague.

Associated Press news assistant Annie Cheung contributed to this report.

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