Thousands of people flocked to an outlying island in Hong Kong on Tuesday to celebrate the Cheung Chau Bun festival.
The event is one of the oldest and most colorful in Hong Kong and began around 100 years ago after a deadly plague devastated the island.
According to local folklore, villagers built an altar in front of the Pak Tai temple and used white steamed buns as an offering to drive away evil spirits.
Those traditions have since evolved into a bun-scrambling competition, dragon dancers, and a colorful parade featuring children dressed as deities floating on poles.
The festival, which takes place on the eighth day of the fourth month of the lunar calendar, usually lasts for about a week. During three of these days, the islanders stick to a strict vegetarian diet.
Even the restaurants in the area, including McDonald’s take meat off their menus.
Despite the record-breaking scorching heat wave, locals and tourists have flocked to the Chinese island to be part of this years celebration.
“It’s hot. But we came here especially for celebration. We have never been here,” said festival goer Sing Wong, who was accompanied by his partner Bell Chu.
“We also wanted to see the bun race because it is once every year and a special festival found only in Hong Kong. It is very hot,” added Chu.
In recent years, children have also dressed as local political figures and celebrities. The city’s chief executive is usually represented on one of the poles.
Four-year-old Ava Wong was given the honor of representing the current incumbent, Carrie Lam, at this year’s event.
Contestants will also take part in a bun-scrambling competition, which will see them race up a 14-metre (45 foot) bamboo tower to snatch as many plastic buns as possible.
Historically, the locals believed that those who raced up the bun tower would bring their family good fortune. The higher the bun, the more better the fortune it will bring.
Unfortunately, the multi-day festival hasn’t always gone smoothly. The bun-snatching contest was canceled after the tower collapsed in 1978, and injured 100 people.
The tradition was revived in 2005 with improved safety measures. This year, festival officials ensured that the tower is sturdier than ever by building it with steel instead of bamboo.
The athletes are now chosen from a preliminary competition, and they must receive mountaineering training before taking part in the competition.
In recent years, women are also allowed to participate and a team version of the race has also been introduced.
A practice bun tower is also set up for demonstrations and to give attendees a chance to try it out.
In addition to the unique competition, attendees can also enjoy a selection of traditional white steamed buns during the festival.
The official bun supplier, Kwok Kam Kee, has been making the delicacy for the last 40 years, and makes over 60,000 of them every year for the festival.
The 2018 edition of the bun scrambling contest will take place on May 22.
[H/T: Files from AP]