The birthday of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, later known as Gautama Buddha and the founder of Buddhism, is a public holiday in Macau as well as other countries with a large number of practicing Buddhists.
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Because the exact date of Buddha’s birth is based on the Asian lunisolar calendar, the date of the holiday changes each year, but is normally celebrated in April or May.
Buddha’s birthday is widely celebrated in Macau. Statues of the baby Buddha are bathed with tea or water, lanterns are hung and there are extended temple services. Some citizens free caged birds or make offerings at temples.
One of the best-known festivals held around Buddha’s birthday is the Feast of the Drunken Dragon. Legend has it that a great plague had devastated the Macau area and villagers carried a statue of Buddha through the fields, asking him to rid the village of the illness. A large python rose up, blocking their way.
One of the villagers, who was said to have gained courage from alcohol, slashed the python into three pieces and it fell into the river. The pieces flew up into the sky with much wind and thunder. People recovered from the plague and it is believed the blood from the python spilled on the ground made it more fertile.
Each year, the people of Macau, on Buddha’s birthday, drink and dance with the dragon. During the festival, locals parade around the city dancing with wooden dragon statues and spitting or spraying alcohol. The parade ends in the harbour where food and alcohol are served to continue the celebration.