*** ----> Child mascots and bun towers: Hong Kong keeps island traditions alive | THE DAILY TRIBUNE | KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN

Child mascots and bun towers: Hong Kong keeps island traditions alive

AFP | New Delhi     

The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com

Sporting costumes ranging from Cinderella dresses to Dragon Ball Z outfits, children were hoisted onto metal poles as unofficial mascots of a boisterous parade as Hong Kong celebrated its annual bun festival yesterday.

Thousands of visitors flocked to Hong Kong's outlying of island of Cheung Chau to watch the "Piu Sik" or floating colours parade, which used to be performed with statues of deities before costumed youngsters replaced them.

The elaborately dressed young children were raised above the crowds for the iconic spectacle on the island, which is steeped in cultural traditions and a popular tourist destination.

Temperatures soared to 29 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit) during the parade. "Last year I was a firefighter... I've always wanted to be a cop," said Wu, 9, who was dressed as a police officer -- complete with sunglasses and a baton. "It's cool."

A popular local bakery saw long queues of festivalgoers eager to sample the island's favourite sweet buns, which are stamped with the Chinese character for "peace and safety".

"We've always had a queue for our 'ping on' buns," said second-generation store owner Martin Kwok, adding that the store made more than 60,000 buns daily in the preceding week. Kwok said he quit a high-paying finance job to carry the torch at the family business, over his father’s objections.

"I really want to maintain the tradition of making buns and to keep the spirit of the bun festival alive," Kwok told AFP. In a nearby playground, a 14-metre-high (45-feet-high) tower covered with imitation steamed buns loomed over the crowd, the site of a midnight contest where 12 athletes will speedclimb their way to the top.

Janet Kung, a former winner who is competing again this year, said the bun scrambling competition has a "sense of grandeur" given its long tradition and live audience.

"The biggest challenge for bun scrambling is how to get over the pressure from the crowd, as well as from my own expectations," said the 30-year-old, who works as a nurse.

A retiree in her 50s surnamed Chan said she appreciated the bun festival's cultural legacy as well as the charms of Cheung Chau, a contrast to the hectic pace of city life.

"It's the ambience of old Hong Kong, the alleys and the small shops... I think this was how my father and mother lived."