Macao is chock-full of festivities in January to usher in Chinese New Year. Visitors are poised to join the locals in the streets to herald the Year of the Rat. The Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival or the Lunar New Year, falls on 25 January this year and will be marked by a week of merrymaking.
The Lunar New Year is the most important and colourful festival in the Chinese calendar. It is also a peak season for tourism in Macao. Last year the city welcomed more than 1.21 million visitors during the seven days of the Golden Week holiday in Mainland China during the festival.
The Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) has arranged a huge number of activities to mark the Spring Festival, ranging from a signature 238-meter-long golden dragon parade in the Historic Centre of Macao, distribution of lai si and souvenirs by the God of Fortune at the Ruins of St. Paul’s and in Senado Square on 25 January, to animated performances in the streets all around the city.
The Parade for Celebration of the Year of the Rat will tour the central district of Macao Peninsula on 27 January and the northern district on 1 February. Revellers can enjoy a special fireworks display, also to be put on by MGTO on the seafront by the Macau Tower on 27 January. The floats used in the parade will be put on display so the public can appreciate them close up and take photographs. After the central district parade, the floats will be on display at the Macao Science Center, and after the northern district parade, they will be on showcase at Tap Seac Square.
One special tradition of the Spring Festival is the giving of gifts of fresh flowers, potted plants and bouquets, regarded as tokens of good luck. So customary Lunar New Year flower markets will spring up in Tap Seac Square and in the Iao Hon Market Garden from 17 January until the early hours of 25 January. The markets will also sell all sorts of goods that are traditional features of the Lunar New Year, ranging from toys to decorations.
Fireworks and firecrackers are an indispensable part of the Spring Festival celebrations. The loud explosions are believed to scare away evil spirits. To allow locals and tourists to enjoy the sight and sound of firecrackers, the Macao SAR Government each year designates an area of the Macao Peninsula and an area of the island of Taipa as places where people can buy fireworks and firecrackers and set them off in safety. This year the designated areas for fireworks and firecrackers will be open to the public from 24 to 29 January.
For many Macao people and tourists, making offerings to the gods is the best way to welcome the Lunar New Year. During this period, temples throughout the city are full of worshippers, and shrouded in a haze of incense smoke from smouldering joss sticks. The A-Ma Temple, next to Barra Square, is one of the most popular places to make offerings. For the convenience of worshippers, temporary stalls will be set up there from 24 to 31 January to sell joss sticks. Pinwheels to attract luck for the year ahead are also available from the stalls.