‘Tis the season for red pockets! We want to share the joy of new year to everyone around the world, so let’s look how different places celebrate Chinese New Year, shall we?
The Chinese New Year, which follows the lunar calendar, is the biggest and most important festival in China and many East Asian countries like Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, etc. Indonesia, for one, also celebrates this Big Day.
Not a lot of people know this, but Chinese Indonesians make up 3% of the whole population of Indonesia. That doesn’t sound like a large percentage, but apparently, Indonesia has the world’s highest number of ethnic Chinese population living outside mainland China and Taiwan. We celebrate the Chinese New Year as ‘Imlek‘.
During New Year’s Eve, just like everywhere else, everyone makes an effort to come home. It is the time where conversations are made and laughter is shared. The dinner menu is almost always fixed every year: barbeque or hotpot. Restaurants provide dining packages—customers can dine while enjoying traditional Chinese acrobats, songs, and dance.
During Chinese New Year, we will wake up and greet each other: “恭喜發財 新年快樂”, or in Indonesian, simply “kionghi”. Everyone is busy in the morning because there are relatives to call and wish, and people dress to impress. There will be at least one red article of clothing because it is believed that red will scare away evil spirits and bad fortune.
There are a few antics that might seem weird but is widely practiced during Chinese New Year:
We are not allowed to wash or clean anything (except the dishes). Sweeping the floor or doing laundry means cleaning away the fortunes of a new year, so we usually clean everything a day before—to indicate that we are getting rid of the bad fortunes and ready for a new start. We are also not allowed to wash our hair on new year’s day, for the same reasons stated before. It is very common to see hairdressers very packed a few days before new year.
My mom believes in starting the new year with a full meal, so we will have rice and a few side dishes for breakfast. Noodles and dumplings are always served because they have special meanings. Noodles indicate happiness and longevity and dumplings means wealth.
Another thing we enjoyed during New Year is the Chinese lion dance, or known as ‘barongsai’ in Indonesian. They will come into houses or restaurants and people will put red pocket money in its mouth. People like to invite barongsai into their house because it indicates good luck. Sometimes people will buy a flock of birds and then let them free during New Year. By letting the birds free, they are also letting go all their bad fortunes.
During the day, it is very customary to go to other relative’s homes to catch up and talk. Red pocket aka ‘angpau‘ is exchanged and snacks are provided. The one snack that everyone will have in their house is ‘nastar’—small bite-sized pineapple tarts filled with pineapple jam. Another thing we always provide is ‘kue lapis legit’ or ‘spekuk’. It is inspired by the Dutch multi-layered cake. Not to forget, it is mandatory to have carts and carts of oranges.
More than anything, Chinese New Year is particularly important because it is when families bond and relationships are rekindled. This is how we celebrate Chinese New Year in Indonesia, how about you?
By: Natasya Viona CHANDRA (Jockey Club Harmony Hall)
Image: Dailymail, Brilio, Aquila Style, cookbakeeatlove.com, infokuliner.com
在一間，人們會習慣性拜訪親戚的家去閑話家常。人們亦會互相交換紅封包(angpau)和提供小食。其中一樣每一家都有的小食是「nastar」——一種充滿菠蘿果醬的小菠蘿酥。另一樣經常提供的小食是千層糕「kue lapis legit」，又稱為「spekuk」，它是由荷蘭千層餅啟發而來的。不可忘記的是，無數的橙是必須的。
文: Natasya Viona CHANDRA (賽馬會群萃堂)
譯: 何栢妮 (李兆基堂)
圖: 《每日郵報》、Brilio、Aquila Style、cookbakeeatlove.com、infokuliner.com