Cantonese Opera at the Amah Temple

Cantonese Opera at the Amah Temple

Around April May, a Cantonese Opera is held in the Barra Square, just right in front of the A-Ma Temple, as part of the week long A-Ma Festival.

A-Ma Festival, which is also called Mazu Festival, is on the twenty-third day of the third lunar month, and is a traditional event to celebrate A-Ma’s birthday.

As Macao was a former fishing port, fishery had ever been one of the three economic pillars in the territory. Many fishermen prayed for Tin Hau’s blessing and safety on their fishing vessels against unstable weather.

Therefore, people had an event to celebrate Tin Hau’s birthday – the Chinese opera performance for terrestrial and maritime dwellers in Barra. This event is believed to have a history of more than a hundred year. At that time, fishermen watched the performance on board. A bamboo-shed theater was built in front of the A-Ma Temple with the traditional Cantonese opera on show days and nights.

The celebration ritual normally starts one day before Tin Hau’s Birthday, while thanksgiving ritual and thanksgiving sparkler performance begins in the evening.

After 1:30 a.m., every village representative would offer the first incense for worship Tin Hau.

Afterwards, there are rituals such as thanksgiving ceremony and delivering congratulatory message to Tin Hau and so on.

On Tin Hau’s Birthday, the sparkler group, performers, and lion and dragon dance teams gather outside the Tin Hau Temple. After all performances have been finished, the lion and dragon dance teams head for the Tin Hau Temple for worship. Finally, a grand ritual is held for sparkler grabbing.

Macao was a fishery port in the past. Tin Hau is believed as the god who protects fishermen in the sea and thus is often worshipped by the people in Macao and most coastal provinces of South China. Every year, worshipers celebrate Tin Hau’s Birthday at the Tin Hau temples, and the A-Ma Temple in Macao is very famous.

Among all celebration activities, “sparkler-grabbing” is the most memorable. There are usually thirty sparklers in this activity. The third sparkler is believed to bring luck and good fortune to families, and is therefore regarded as the “King of Sparkler.”

In addition, it is said that two village representatives had ever grabbed the first sparkler at the same time, so “the first ONE sparkler” (for grabbing) and “the first sparkler" (for worship and celebration) are specially arranged to calm the storm.

The A-Ma Festival is not only designed for people to have different activities and performances to celebrate Tin Hau’s birthday, but also for praying for protection, peace, prosperity and better living for the Macao citizens.