Throwing light on the celebration of Chinese New year in Grand Macau, China

Updated: Apr 4, 2019

In Macau where Cantonese is the most-spoken language, the standard way to wish “Happy New Year” is “gong hei fat choy” which means “wishing you great happiness and prosperity.”

The Spring Festival is by far the most prominent and boldest annual celebration in Macau. I visited Macau in February 2017 and was fortunate to witness the Chinese new year. It is one of its kind. The stores are closed for business while the squares roar with people. The roads light up the brightly colored lanterns and mandarin decorated trees. Many people clean their homes to welcome the Spring Festival. They put up the red posters with poetic verses on their doors and New Year pictures on their walls. It is also a time to reunite with relatives; many people visit their families at this time of the year.

Traveling from India, I wondered if the celebration of Chinese New year had any cultural significance attached. Turns out that the people during the celebration welcome spring and what it brings along: planting and harvesting, new beginnings and fresh starts. The Spring Festival was originally a ceremonial day to pray to gods for a desired planting and harvest season in an agrarian society where harvesting was everything. People also pray to their ancestors as they are revered to as gods. Walking across the streets, one observes people burning fake paper money and printed gold bars in honor of their deceased loved ones. They believe the offerings will bring fortune and good luck to their ancestors in the afterlife. I could relate to their beliefs.

In the evening of the Spring Festival many people set off fireworks and firecrackers, hoping to cast away any bad luck and bring forth good luck. Children often receive “luck” money. Many people wear new clothes and send Chinese New Year greetings to each other. Various activities such as beating drums and striking gongs, as well as dragon and lion dances, are all part of the Spring Festival festivities.

One of the most Interesting facts that I came across was that showering, sweeping and throwing out the garbage isn’t allowed on New Year’s Day. This act is to make sure you don’t wash away the good luck! On the other hand, there’s a day before the Spring Festival dedicated to cleaning. This day is to sweep the bad luck away and make room for the good.

The New year Parade in Macau was hosted at the Senado Square. The parade goes through the historic district from Senado Square to Lilau Square, A-Ma Temple, and Sai Van Lake Square. About 25 buildings in the area are listed as UNESCO World Heritage. The parade is a pure spectacle with a score of dancing lions, 200-meter long winding dragon, and decorated floats. The square is noted for its beauty and the historic Portuguese buildings, and it's all lit up for the celebrations.

Chinese New year ends with the Lantern Festival which is the first full moon of the lunar year. Although celebrating it with family may seem significant, for the younger ones it’s a night of partying and freedom. During this time of the year getting caught in the crowds is unavoidable, and is all part of the fun. Nothing quite shouts excitement like seeing the sky light up in a mesmerizing display of fabulous fireworks. Let's say the firework display along with the Macau skyline knows how to put up a grand fiery act.

PS - Don’t forget to treat yourself to sumptuous traditional Lunar New Year delicacies at some of the best Chinese restaurants in the city.

Travel Related information

Visa for Indians : Not required

Duration : 30 days

Purpose : Tourism

Travel : By Air

Currency : Macanese Pataca (MOP)

Photography Credits

Shilpa Srinivas @flohwithme