[Image: Many white buns piled on top of each other. Each bun is decorated in red with a stylised combination of the Chinese characters 平 (píng) and 安 (ān), meaning peaceful/safe.]
Tomorrow is the 8th day of the 4th month in the Chinese calendar. In a number of countries, including China, this is the day for celebrating the birthday of Buddha, and it's an official public holiday in both Hong Kong and Macau. On Cheung Chau island within Hong Kong, it's also the culmination of a famous local festival known in English as the Cheung Chau bun festival.
While there is a strong spiritual aspect to the festival (the Chinese name, 太平清醮/tài píng qīng jiào, translates as something along the lines of "the purest sacrifice celebrated for great peace"), it's also a fun day out. Stalls offer various types of bun (包/bāo) as well as bun-related souvenirs such as bun-shaped cushions, bun-shaped fridge magnets, bun t-shirts, and so on. There's also a parade, music, and lion dance performances[see footnote].
Perhaps the most unique aspect is the bun scrambling competition, in which climbers race to the top of a giant tower of buns, collecting as many buns as possible along the way. Historically there were three towers, which were constructed of real buns and built around a bamboo framework. However, although these three towers still form part of the festival, these days the actual scrambling takes place on a different tower in which the buns are plastic replicas and the framework is steel.
Everything I know about this festival I learned from the internet, so here are some links:
- Dr Sui-wai Cheung's overview of the spiritual and cultural aspects of the festival
- Dim Sum Dolly's writeup of the 2010 festival from a tourist's perspective
- Photos and videos from the past decade of the festival
- More photos and commentary from (almost) the past decade
Footnote:  As an aside, if you're interested in lion dance, you could do worse than heading over to Strange Horizons to read qian's excellent story 起狮，行礼 (Rising Lion — The Lion Bows). There's also an out-take from that story right here on Dreamwidth.