Macau Catholics celebrate the Year of the Dragon

2024 Lunar New Year

Fr Leonard E Dollentas

Just after the Christmas season ends, a new celebration begins with the Lunar New Year festivities. It is the most important holiday in China, and it is also widely celebrated in South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, and countries with a significant overseas Chinese population.

Macau welcomes this spring festival with colourful red lanterns amidst joys and smiles of children with their lai si. And of course, don’t forget about the amazing foods! Dumplings, long noodles, sticky rice, and fish are among the delicious festive foods for the occasion.

Unlike the Western New Year, which is celebrated for one day, the Lunar New Year is celebrated for 15 days. This year, the Lunar New Year began on Saturday, February 10th, and the populace welcomes the Year of the Dragon. In Chinese culture, the dragon is a powerful and auspicious symbol representing good fortune, wisdom, and strength. The Year of the Dragon is believed to bring prosperity and success in various aspects of life. While the Chinese zodiac is deeply rooted in ancient Chinese traditions, its appeal and impact extend far beyond the borders of China. People from different backgrounds and religious affiliations are drawn to value and respect the symbolism associated with each zodiac animal of the ancient Chinese traditions.

The Church recognizes and appreciates the importance of cultural traditions and encourages its followers to embrace and respect different customs. As such, non-Chinese Catholics in Macau see the Year of the Dragon’s New Year celebration as an opportunity to engage with the cultural practices of their Chinese brothers and sisters in faith.

Thus, with one faith and one heart, Macau Catholics celebrate the Lunar New Year integrating their faith into the festivities. The liturgical celebrations incorporate elements of Chinese culture while remaining rooted in Catholic traditions. On the first day of the Lunar New Year, it is customary for the parishes in Macau to celebrate the masses in honor of Our Lady of China. As we begin the Lunar New Year, the Church invites the people to live a life of renewal and gratitude and entrusts the new year to Mary’s guidance and protection.

Having a diverse community, the Year of the Lunar New Year celebration within Macau’s Catholic communities emphasizes the importance of unity and solidarity. It serves as a reminder that, despite our diverse backgrounds, we are all part of a larger human family. By embracing the customs and traditions associated with the Year of the Dragon, Catholics demonstrate their commitment to building bridges, fostering harmony, and respecting cultural differences. Locals, Portuguese and the large number of Filipinos gathered to share in the Eucharist, for the priests’ lai si distribution and the food get-together.

Though each parish organizes events for the Lunar New Year celebration in various ways, depending on the size and resources available to the community, Catholic communities may organize cultural performances that showcase traditional Chinese dances, music, and other artistic expressions. These performances not only entertain but also educate attendees about Chinese culture and traditions. Saturday’s event featured the captivating lion dance, colorful fireworks, and a delightful spread of local Macau cuisine shared by the church goers. It’s heartwarming to witness communities coming together to celebrate cultural heritage and share in the spirit of unity during this auspicious time.

This year’s Year of The Dragon also inspired some Catholic communities to engage in outreach and charity initiatives. They organized fundraisers or collection drives to support causes that align with the spirit of the Lunar New Year, such as helping those in need, promoting environmental cleaning, or supporting education. These initiatives reflect the Catholic values of compassion, solidarity, and service to others. This creates an inclusive and respectful environment that allows Catholics and others to come together in celebration and foster understanding and unity.

May the Year of the Dragon bring prosperity, courage, and blessings to all.