It is for a few days every year that the village of Coloane in Macau shakes off its normally sleepy demeanour which accounts for much of its charm, to show off its livelier side during its celebration of the Tam Kong Festival. The festival, celebrated on the eight day of the fourth month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar – the same day that the drunken parade of dragons takes place on the streets around Senado Square, attracts larges crowds to the village, drawn to the host of activities held in and around the village.
The village celebrating the festival, which commemorates the birthday of Tam Kong, a Taoist child-deity, in a big way, does provides a clue into the village’s origins and its early inhabitants – Tam Kong who is believed to have the power to calm storms, is very much revered by the village’s fisher-folk as their protector.
It is at the Tam Kong Temple at the south end of the village’s seaside promenade where much of the festival’s atmosphere can be soaked in. A temporary stage along with a huge canopy – all constructed of bamboo poles in the fashion of the scaffolding common in this part of the world which hides the temple from view, is where much of the temples activities are held over three days, watched by the hundreds who make their way there specially for the occasion. The festival’s entertainment is provided by Cantonese opera troupes – in a way, sans the canopy, reminiscent of how the masses would have been entertained during the celebration of Chinese religious festivals commonly seen in the Singapore of my younger days.
It isn’t however at the temple where festivities take place. The village’s Eduardo Marques Square (Largo da Eduardo Marques) does also see some very spirited excitement. With another temporary stage set up on which less religiously related entertainment was being provided that included (at least this year) a beer drinking contest, that certainly is another area where one can soak up the festive atmosphere.
The village, crawling with cars and people, does still provide the quiet escape, many including myself like the it for, with it many quiet corners and its labyrinth of alleyways. It wasn’t of course what I was there for, but it was nice to indulge in some quiet with all the commotion that was going on. And since I was where I was, there was this little stop I had to make – one of two Lord Stow’s Cafes in the village for the irresistibly delicious treat on offer – product from the nearby bakery of the same name that Macau and Coloane have to thank an Englishman for – Lord Stow’s egg tarts, before getting on the unusually crowded bus back to the busy streets and bright lights of Macau’s city centre.