Worshippers from Santo Hieronimus parish church in Tanjung Hulu, Pontianak City, West Kalimantan, celebrated the Chinese New Year at Sunday mass. Before the ceremony the priest and celebrants led a procession to the church accompanied by fireworks.
Half of the hymns sung in the mass were in Mandarin. The first reading from the Bible was also read out in the Chinese dialect. During the ceremony, children wearing Chinese costumes performed dances accompanied by Chinese musical instruments. They also brought Chinese paper lanterns and various offerings.
“Chinese New Year, or Imlek, is a celebration in which people express their gratitude for their lives and livelihoods and welcome the change of season,” said Rev Paulus Jasmin in his sermon to the congregation of around 500 worshippers. The priest wore red vestments. The worshippers who were of Chinese descent also wore red and used various Chinese accessories such as hairpins for the women.
Yuliana Sri Marti, a housewife who attended the mass with her daughter, said that although she was not of Chinese descent, she was very impressed by the unique service.
“The Chinese songs and music made the mass really merry. We had a lot of Chinese paper lanterns on the ceiling so that the atmosphere was very cheerful. It’s a kind of acculturation between the Catholic church and the culture of its followers,” said Yuliana who is from the Dayak ethnic group.
After the mass, Rev Jasmin, who wore a Chinese hat with a long pigtail blessed an offering of mandarin oranges and gifts of ‘angpau’(money wrapped in small envelopes). He conveyed his blessing in Mandarin.
Each massgoer received a package of mandarin oranges and angpau worth Rp 2,000 (21 US cents). Older members of the congregation received large Bali oranges. After receiving the oranges and angpau gifts, the worshippers gathered in the churchyard to watch a 15-minute Barongsai (lion dance) performance. (ebf)