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Jakarta Post

From religious rituals to festive attractions: Indonesians prepare to celebrate Chinese New Year

  • Apriadi Gunawan and Ardila Syakriah

    The Jakarta Post

Medan, North Sumatra   /   Fri, January 24, 2020   /   06:50 pm
From religious rituals to festive attractions: Indonesians prepare to celebrate Chinese New Year A barongsai performance enlivens the Imlek celebration in Surakarta, Central Java, in 2019. (JP/Ganug Nugroho Adi)

Many Indonesians are preparing to celebrate the Chinese New Year, which falls on Saturday, with religious rituals and festive attractions.

In Medan, North Sumatra, Buddhists are visiting temples to perform prayers for their ancestors ahead of the Chinese New Year, locally known as Imlek.

They bring along ritual offerings, ranging from fruit, cakes and flowers to be presented to their ancestors.

Nelly Wijaya, a Buddhist who lives in Medan, said that she said ritual prayers every year ahead of the Chinese New Year as a mark of respect for her late father.

"We pray so that our ancestors will rest in peace and we ask for forgiveness on behalf of them for any sins they committed during their lives," Nelly said after performing her prayers at the Vihara Gunung Timur in Medan on Thursday.

Atek, one of Vihara Gunung Timur temple's caretakers, said the temple had been cleaned up for the past week in preparation to welcome the new year.

He said the peak of new year celebrations at the temple would fall on Tuesday, however, they would not roll out any festive performances, such as the traditional barongsai (lion dance) performance or fireworks display.

"We're focusing on religious rituals only," Atek said.

A total of 878 personnel from the Indonesian Military, the National Police and mass organizations will be deployed to maintain security in temples across Medan during the Chinese New Year.

Medan Police chief Sr. Comr. Johnny Eddizon Isir said the deployed personnel represented collaboration and diversity.

"We hope that our brothers and sisters who are celebrating the Chinese New Year will feel safe as we maintain security," Jhonny said addressing the personnel at Medan Police headquarters on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Jakarta administration has prepared various attractions to celebrate the festive day, ranging from barongsai performances to a Chinese culinary festival.

Jakarta Mental and Spiritual Education Bureau head Hendra Hidayat said the series of attractions would also entertain those who were not celebrating the Chinese New Year.

"That is our spirit; equality, then togetherness and brotherhood," Hendra said on Thursday as quoted by kompas.com.

From Thursday to Friday, barongsai performances alongside traditional Betawi Gambang Kromong and Tanjidor (traditional Betawi musical ensemble) performances were held to entertain Jakarta residents starting from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at two locations, namely in front of the Grand Hyatt Hotel and at the Dukuh Atas Park in Central Jakarta.

Barongsai performances will also be held on Saturday at Thamrin 10, the city's new "melting pot" managed by city-owned market operator Pasar Jaya. On Sunday, the performance will be held during the Car Free Day.

On the same day, wayang potehi (Chinese glove puppet) performances will also be held at Thamrin 10, where the Chinese Food Festival will roll out until Feb. 5.

For the peak of the Chinese New Year celebration, the Jakarta administration will also provide attractions to celebrate Cap Go Meh (15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar) at three Little Chinatown points in the city; Petak Sembilan Glodok in West Jakarta, Jatinegara in East Jakarta and Kampung Duri in West Jakarta.