BECOMING PART OF THE MACAU FAMILY – Chinese New Year Of Modern Times Keeps Traditional Values And Family Worship
Pedro Daniel Oliveira
Chinese New Year is seen in Macau, not only as a cultural Chinese festivity, but also as a form of integration into society, whether it’s expatriates or Chinese from Mainland China living here. So says António Mil-Homens, Nunu Khan, Paulo Fernandes and Vítor Moutinho.
To professional photographer António Mil-Homens, Chinese New Year “has undergone a certain evolution,” given the fact that “it was completely mystical in 1996,” the year he first arrived in Macau, “filling all the other sensations of one who came from Europe, in this case, Lisbon.”
“I have been in Macau for ten years [the second time], as a permanent resident,” he said, adding, “I notice that the festivity has lost some of its mystique, its enchantment, much due to the invasion of tourists, mostly from Mainland China, which render the Macau Historical Center impassable, where the decoration of the Chinese New Year was then mostly noticed.”
“The reality is a bit different,” if we take into consideration Buddhist temples and contact with local Chinese, or those from Mainland China who have already settled in Macau for a long time, Mr Mil-Homens said, thus “they have a more traditional respect and belonging” regarding the meaning of Chinese New Year.
“It’s clear, this period is also the time when many people travel outside of Macau. Even I confess, at least twice, I’ve taken advantage of the breakdown of the photographic market to travel hotter places, since at this time there is an influence of cold air, much in the style of Europe, which really contrasts with the climate we have in Macau throughout the remaining year,” Mr Mil-Homens told us.
Nunu Khan considers himself a “man of three generations in Macau,” so that he “has seen and had contacts with lots of people.” Therefore, “during the old days of Chinese New Years we used to play firecrackers outside our house, and go to see relatives to receive ‘lai see’ — red packet meaning lucky money.”
“But time has changed rapidly now,” he stressed, “some go abroad to visit neighboring countries during these long holidays, and some stay behind to try their luck at the casinos.” To Mr Khan, “Macau is a place of four seasons, not only [because of] the weather, but all national festivals.” He is the Assistant to the Chief Operating Officer in Sofitel at Ponte 16.
José Gonçalves Marques law firm Legal Expert Paulo Fernandes was born in Mozambique, and recalls, “in this beautiful city of Lourenço Marques, now Maputo, the Chinese community were celebrating the New Chinese Year.” Therefore, after he came to live in Macau, “the colors of the clothes, lanterns and firecrackers were like a second carnival.”
“If the memory serves me right, it has been 30 years since the Chinese New Year became a calendar date to me,” the Legal Expert said, for whom “the charm of this festivity and the scent of the burning incense, combined with colors and signs of the horoscope announcing the good year, are habits of the Chinese as something that also belonged to me, and I wanted to enjoy.”
“I married a Chinese lady in Macau, and the Chinese New Year has become yet another important milestone in our house, where we celebrate Christmas with the same fervor. Moreover, the ‘lai see‘ and this festivity’s gastronomy make the Chinese New Year even more so long awaited and desired,” Mr Fernandes said.
Macau Health Bureau Adviser Vítor Moutinho has been living in Macau since April 2014. Prior to his arrival from Portugal, he was completely unaware of the Chinese New Year’s celebration and tradition. “The year 2015 was the first year that I lived this festivity with some curiosity. It was the Year of the Sheep. I discovered a facet of society that until then was unknown to me — the dedication to the family, the desires of a lifetime full of happiness and love, particularly for Chinese society implying also to have money,” stressed Mr Moutinho.
Another curiosity he noticed, the Chinese families live this feast with great intensity. “Although they are not very open to society, to the outside, to foreigners and to expatriates, even to ourselves — Portuguese in Macau — I come to realize that they are very united in these weeks and live the Chinese New Year very privately, also with intensity,” he said, recalling, “these families are able to be engaged for long months to live these days very closely, also with a lot of food.”
Stating that Chinese New Year “means abundance,” he also stressed, the typical celebrations of the Portuguese community most resembled are “Christmas and New Year’s Eve,” since “these three or four days are the combination of two festivities that the Portuguese are very much used to.”
Chinese New Year “is extremely pleasant and extremely positive, as well as culturally diverse,” Mr Moutinho said, because for those who came from the other side of the world, as it’s his case, is “moreover an integration into the local society, to be a part of this great family called Macau.”