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A food frenzy, fireworks and a flower festival – they’re all happening this year in Macao as the region celebrates a special anniversary
Macao‘s festivals and events calendar is positively jam-packed this year, with 2019 marking the 20th anniversary of Macao as a special administrative region (SAR) of The People’s Republic of China.
After launching the Chinese New Year of the Pig celebrations on February 5 with a colourful parade and spectacular fireworks display, the former Portuguese territory and its 650,000 residents are preparing for a year-long program with a long list of signature and traditional festivals and culinary events to whet the curious traveller’s appetite.
“There’s little doubt, Macao knows how to party,” said Helen Wong, general manager of the Macao Government Tourism Office (Australia and New Zealand). “The number of festivals and events on the calendar is overwhelming.”
Celebrations will be taking place all over the Asian hub, and much of the limelight will be on Macao’s billing as a member of the elite global list of UNESCO Creative Cities for Gastronomy.
“Being recognised by UNESCO for its gastronomy is one of the countless highlights in a city which has always been renowned for having one of the world’s earliest forms of fusion food,” said Wong. “The story of Macanese cuisine is just as enticing as the taste of the food itself.”
Heading the tourism campaigns through 2019 is Macao’s loveable mascot, Mak Mak, the creation of young local Tou Chon Wai. Mak Mak is a black-faced spoonbill native to Macao, her headwear inspired by the historic Guia Lighthouse, once the highest point of the former Portuguese territory.
Events taking place this year include:
Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants
Following on last year’s success, Macao will also once again host the prestigious Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants promotion complete with dining experiences, lectures, a chefs’ feast and a ritzy gala awards ceremony. Drawing on the theme of ‘Vital Ingredients’, the opening event at the Wynn Palace Cotai will see leading chefs from the region discuss ideas around sustainability, sourcing, over-consumption and related issues facing cooks, restaurateurs and diners.
Macao International Travel Industry Expo
Macao will host its 7th Macao International Travel Industry Expo (MITE) at The Venetian Macao, this year’s exhibition seeing a further increase in the number of booths.
At A-Ma Festival, homage is paid to Macao’s most popular deity, the Goddess of Seafarers, from whom Macao is said to derive its name. This is a day when seafarers and their families visit the ancient temple in the Inner Harbour.
May 4 – June 2
30th Macao Arts Festival
The Macao Arts Festival invites a mix of local, regional and international performers from around the world to present a variety of theatre, dance, music, circus, multimedia and visual arts performances in an artistic panorama of events. You’ll get to witness performances ranging from Cantonese Opera and Chinese music to Western classical and modern music along with Chinese and Macanese drama in this festival that kicks off in the city in the early summer. The cherry on top is many of the performances take place in Macao’s enchanting UNESCO-listed World Heritage sites.
Procession of Our Lady of Fatima
An annual procession of devotees, the Procession of Our Lady of Fatima begins at S. Domingos Church and continues to the Penha Chapel where an open-air mass is said. The event commemorate the miracle of Fátima in Portugal in 1917.
June 1, 2 and 7
Macao International Dragon Boat Races and Festival
The centre of celebrations for the Dragon Boat Festival is undoubtedly the Macao International Dragon Boat Races that take place each year in late May or early June on Nam Van Lake on the historic Praia Grande shorefront. Both local and foreign teams participate in various men’s and women’s divisions, and the event has become one of the international sporting community’s favourite outdoor parties in Macao. The Dragon Boat Festival originally commemorated the ancient patriotic Chinese poet Qu Yuan, who protested corruption by taking his own life by drowning.
19th Macao Lotus Flower Festival
Taking place every year in the summer, the Macao Lotus Flower Festival showcases the famous aquatic plant that is the centrepiece of the Macao SAR flag. Found all throughout China, the lotus is considered a symbol of purity, and every year the festival highlights a particular lotus flower species, which admirers can see at the Taipa Houses-Museum and in the Suzhou-inspired Lou Lim Ieoc Garden among other places.
Potted lotuses can also be found in major parks, on many streets and in popular sightseeing spots around Macao, and some of the local restaurants offer seasonal lotus-themed dishes in celebration of the festival.
September 7 to October 5
Macao International Fireworks Display Contest
Considered one of the best pyrotechnic displays in the world, the annual Macao International Fireworks Display Contest takes place every year on the Macau Tower Shorefront and has welcomed more than 100 international teams from China, the Philippines, Thailand, Chinese Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Australia, the UK, Switzerland, France, Germany, Portugal and Spain over the years. In 2019 it will be the 30th anniversary of the Macao Fireworks Display Contest and a record 12 countries will participate. If you like light shows, September is the month to visit Macao.
The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth month in the lunar calendar and is one of the most-celebrated festivities in Chinese culture, symbolising a time for family reunion. A day filled with colourful festivities, the main streets are decorated with pretty lanterns to welcome the Festival, and families will gather for dinner followed by a night outside to admire the full moon with a picnic in the garden, by the lake or at the beach. It’s also a tradition to eat mooncakes and offer this sweet pastry as a gift to relatives and friends on this day.
October 4 – November 3
Macao International Music Festival
2019 marks the 33rd Macao International Music Festival, which is a major annual event that attracts hundreds of thousands to the city. Held in various locations around Macao, The Macao International Music Festival assembles internationally renowned artists from all over the world and features opera, orchestral and chamber music, Chinese folk music, jazz and even Broadway numbers. Many of the concerts and performances take place in World Heritage sites such as Dom Pedro V Theatre, Mount Fortress and St. Dominic’s Church making the performances even more memorable.
Macau Food Festival
Food for thought later in the year is the 19th Macau Food Festival, where the overwhelming aroma of dishes will be enough to wake the taste buds of any visitor wandering between the lakeside street stalls.
Held in the rotunda opposite the Macau Tower, the Food Festival attracts local residents and visitors beguiled by delicious Asian, European, Mainland Chinese and local delicacies served up in street stalls, booths and tents. The festival also offers plenty of live entertainment, games and beer competitions making this foodfest a favourite for families.
Macau Grand Prix
Recognised as the most internationally prestigious event on the local calendar, the legendary Macau Grand Prix is approaching its sixth decade this year. Pitting the best motorcycle, WTCC and Formula 3 racers in the world against each other and the clock, this adrenaline-pumping four-day event takes place along the narrow, twisting Guia street circuit of Macao city. Get ready for a colourful and thrilling four days full of racing engines and roaring crowds.
Macao International Marathon
This international marathon, first hosted by Macao in 1981, continues to attract large numbers of local and international long distance runners each year. The full course Marathon includes the Peninsula, Taipa and Coloane, while the Half-Marathon and Mini-Marathon are designed to attract not only professional athletes but amateurs seeking to test their endurance. Who says you have to drop the ball on your exercise regime when on holiday?
Traditionally, December is a busy month and 2019 will be no exception when the city’s stages the 9th Macau Shopping Festival, the ever-appealing Macao Light Festival, the giant Macao International Parade and the 4th International Film Festival and Awards – Macao (IFFAM), complete with its red-carpet ceremonies and galaxies of star celebrities.
Macao Light Festival
To wind up the eventful year, lovers of fireworks will prepare for a colourful evening to commemorate the 20th year since the establishment of the Macao Administrative Region. Now in its fifth yearIn 2015, the Macao Light Festival is held at various locations in Macao Peninsula and on the Islands and presents projection mapping, light installations, interactive games and other activities. The event aims to draw visitors to different districts of the city for an appreciation of Macao by night and to learn about the local culture and history.
Ring in 2020 with a bang with Macao’s traditional New Year fireworks, taking place every year on December 31.