Thursday, February 22, 2018

Dogs, Lions, and Inflatable Israeli Hammers: The Macau Lunar New Year Festival at Tap Seac Square

Dog lantern display at Tap Seac Square
Dog-themed display part of the Lunar New Year festivities at Tap Seac Square in Macau

Recently Macau held a Lunar New Year fair at Tap Seac Square, a regular event there since 2009. I visited the fair last Wednesday and was interested to compare it to the Lunar New Year fairs I have seen in Taipei and in Hong Kong.

Macau Lunar New Year Market at Tap Seac Square
Part of the Lunar New Year Market at Tap Seac Square

In general, with the exception of it lacking any political activism, I found it more similar to what I saw in Hong Kong due to the many aspects which weren't specific to the Lunar New Year and more like a typical fair. That said, there was still plenty which clearly tied to the holiday.

For example, a number of the stalls had a distinct dog theme — appropriate for the upcoming Year of the Dog.

stall selling dog-themed items at Tap Seac Square Lunar New Year Market

stall selling dog-themed items at Tap Seac Square Lunar New Year Market

One of those stalls, though, rebelled a bit by including the slogan "I Like Cats More" on their sign.

stall selling dog-themed items with the slogan "I Like Cats More"

Accordingly, a number of doggish items were on sale, which meant that some people left with a new inflatable pet.

girl pulling inflatable dog on wheels

Some items mixed aspects of the holiday: for example, dog-themed pinwheels.

various pinwheels including several with dog themes

And as is traditional in this region of China, the market included many flowers for sale.

flowers for sale at Tap Seac Square Lunar New Year Market

Ample photographic opportunities were available. One popular option was having your photo taken with a cheerful God of Wealth.

people taking a photograph with person in a God of Wealth costume

people taking a photo with somebody in a God of Wealth costume

The biggest difference between my experience at this fair and others elsewhere was the number of live performances. While I was there, two Chinese orchestras performed.

Chinese orchestra performance at Macau Lunar New Year Fair

And, not surprisingly, nearby traditional drums came out as well.

traditional Chinese drum performance

This was a clear sign a lion dance was at hand. The performance was entertaining for most everyone except a snake that didn't fare so well.

black Chinese lion

Red Chinese lion looking at a scroll and stuffed snake
Lion vs. Snake

Red Chinese lion holding a banner
Snake now in the lion's belly

White Chinese lion dancing
Lion vs. Me?

Other aspects of the fair weren't so traditional or specific to the Lunar New Year. There were several food stalls offering items which would be common at a night market, including one with black cuttlefish sausage.

menu in Chinese with various items

For reasons I can't explain, they didn't have a giant black cuttlefish sausage on hand like I saw at the Lunar New Year festival in Taipei.

There was also a clown modeling balloons — as usual, a hit with children.

Clown modeling balloons for children

Reminiscent of the giant stuffed cigarettes I saw for sale at a Lunar New Year fair in Hong Kong, I found that some items for sale made me do a double take.

inflatable hammers and hands with symbols from Israeli flag

If you were looking for inflatable hands and hammers with an Israeli theme, it was your lucky day.

And finally, the day I went to the fair was February 14 — Valentine's Day. In the spirit of that other holiday some people were selling heart-shaped red balloons.

people selling red heart-shaped balloons

One of the things I personally enjoyed about the fair, at least during my time there, was it had a good crowd but wasn't packed to the point where moving around was difficult — an issue I faced at times in both Taipei and Hong Kong. The fair unexpectedly captivated me for long enough that by the time I left the Macanese restaurant where I had planned to eat dinner had already closed.

I should have picked up some black cuttlefish sausage before leaving. I didn't even get to eat a stuffed snake.

Added note: As pointed out by a reader, Valentine's Day may have also influenced the name of one of the dog-themed stalls that appears in the photos above. "單身狗" includes the Chinese character for dog and is unflattering / self-deprecating slang for a person who is single. The reader wrote, "I guess one of the stalls got away with the sarcastic flavor."

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