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Jakarta Post

Celebrating Imlek

Wed, February 6, 2019   /   03:54 pm
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    The lion and the dragon: Residents in Malang, East Java, watch the barongsai (lion dance) during the Chinese New Year celebration at Eng An Kiong temple. JP/Aman Rochman

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    Red dragon: Dancers showcase the liong performance in Surakarta, Central Java. The liong performance represents acculturation between the Chinese and local traditions. JP/Ganug Nugroho Adi

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    Light the way: A man lights candles at Dharma Ramsi temple in Bandung, West Java. JP/Arya Dipa

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    Throw it away: A man burns paper as a symbol of ditching bad luck at the Satya Dharma temple in Benoa, Bali. JP/Anggara Mahendra

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    Give thanks: A woman prays during a Chinese New Year celebration at Satya Dharma temple in Benoa Bali. JP/Anggara Mahendra

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    Happy new year: A Chinese-descent wears a shirt with pig illustrations to symbolize the beginning of the pig year at the Satya Dharma temple in Benoa, Bali. JP/ Anggara Mahendra

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    Taste of freedom: A bird vendor waits for people to buy birds for a traditional releasing ceremony taking place during Chinese New Year at Dharma Bakti temple in Jakarta. JP/Ricky Yudhistira

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    Mingle time: A family in Tangerang, Banten celebrate Chinese New Year. JP/PJ Leo

Tuesday, is Chinese New Year, a traditional festival that has been celebrated by ethnic Chinese people around the world for thousands of years to honor deities as well as ancestors.

There are around 2.8 million Indonesians of Chinese descent and many of them celebrate Imlek.

In Indonesia, people have only been able to openly celebrate Chinese New Year since 2002, after then-president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid issued Presidential Decree No. 19/2002, which declared the festival a national holiday.

Previously, under Soeharto’s New Order regime, Chinese New Year could not be celebrated openly. The New Order regime had a staunch anticommunist stance and anything that had to do with China and its culture was considered dangerous to the nationhood.

Nowadays, Indonesians of Chinese descent are able to flock to temples across the country to pray for good fortune, happiness, wealth and longevity for them and their families.

Pig decorations are seen in many places to usher in the Year of the Pig, and barongsai (lion and dragon dance) shows are performed to entertain people of all backgrounds.