The majority of those of Chinese descent have already for generations settled in many parts of the Indonesian archipelago, where their culture and traditions have taken root deeply, and in the process have fused with the local cultures, also since many settlers have taken local women as wife. This is why, Chinese New Year - here better known as “Imlek” – is celebrated with gusto and with lots of fanfare and participated by local inhabitants with equal joy, so that Chinese New Year in Indonesia has also been declared a national holiday .
This year, Chinese New Year falls on 28th January 2017, but celebrations will continue for 15 days, culminating on 11th February with the Festivities of Cap Go Meh.
Among the many cities and towns in the archipelago, - among which are Semarang, Jakarta, Palembang, Pontianak, Medan, and many other cities, - Chinese New Year is particularly celebrated with grand festivities on the Beautiful Island of Bintan in the Riau Islands and in Manado, capital city of North Sulawesi.
On Bintan island, just a short ferry ride away from Singapore and Johor Baru, Malaysia, Chinese New Year Festival will be centered at Plaza Lagoi on 28th January 2017 by the freshly opened attractive Lantern Park, with lanterns taking the shape of the many creatures of the sea. The festival itself will be highlighted with a special gala dinner for 200 persons, presented with various distinct Chinese art and cultural performances. During the festival there will be Dragon Dances, Lion Dances, a Chinese Musical Show, the release of bright sky lanterns, fireworks galore, and a lot more exciting activities.
What makes Chinese New Year festival in Bintan specially unique is here it features the figure of Cai Shen, the God of Prosperity. Chinese New Year celebrations have always been closely associated with fortune and prosperity. And this is the reason why, during this year’s festival, the Cai Shen figure will hand out ‘angpau’ or red envelopes containing coins. Most people believe that coins are supposed to bring good fortune and prosperity in the year to come.
While a lot further east in Indonesia, in the city of Manado, the capital North Sulawesi Province, Chinese New Year festival will last for two weeks. Here, the festival will not only feature distinct Chinese art and culture, but it will also be fused with local traditions of the Minahasa, Sangihe, and the Bolaang Mongondow ethnic groups living in this region.
Festivities as well as communal prayers will be centered at the Ban Hin Kiong Temple at Jalan D.I. Panjaitan in Manado’s Chinatown. This is the oldest temple in the eastern part of Indonesia, built during the Qing Dynasty in China (1644-1911), which has beautiful classical Chinese architecture and decorations.
During the festival, there will be mass lion dances (Barongsai), dragon dances, a Street food festival featuring mouth-watering Chinese food and Manado’s traditional food, and a whole lot more.
Also here in Manado, the pinnacle day of Cap Go Meh (here better known as Toa Peh Kong), which falls on 11 February 2017, is celebrated with a parade headed by local Minahasa performances of Kabasaran and Cakalele, that are special dances shown only at most important occasions. These are followed by colorfully decorated palanquins carrying religious personifications and symbols (called Pikulan), then come lion dancers and dragon dancers. While the most awaited by the packed crowds are the “Ince Pia”, the men and women who are able to pierce their body, tongues, or cheeks with sharp swords or lances, but remain invulnerable and completely unscathed.
Do make it a point to celebrate your Chinese New Year in Indonesia.