Well well, it’s another new year!
I went to a Chinese temple last night and it was amazing! So many red things, so many people bustling about, so many smells and sights and sounds. I have been planning to do this since last year and when I finally did, I was indeed impressed.
Me and pumpkinshoe went to the oldest temple in Jakarta: the Petak Sembilan or Hian Tan Keng temple in Glodok. The temple, which was built in the 17th century, is located in one of the most crowded part of the town, squeezed in between dark alleyways and busy markets. However, on that night, the alleyway heading there looked less dodgy and more festive.
Then we saw the big gates and wondered how to get inside the temple. We hesitated at first but then saw lots of people, who weren’t chinese, sitting on the ground. We went inside the gates and discovered that they were waiting for alms.
There were also plenty of other people-photographers and tourists who are eager to breathe in the festive aura. Teenagers pose with “V” signs in front of the temple and shrines and some are just as wide-eyed as me at seeing all the excitement.
It’s hard to believe that almost a decade ago, these were forbidden. The New order era, which reigned from 1965, banned Chinese Indonesians from openly carrying out rituals that display their chinese identities. Not even the language had been allowed then. People did engage in rituals but definitely not as straightforward as nowadays.
I have been inside temples a few times before, and most of those times I feel very…strange. A bit suffocated and yet awestruck. However, this New Year’s Eve, there’s much more of the amazement and excitement. Maybe the lighting and the huge, huge amount of people had something to do with it. Most of the times that I visit temples, it would be empty and dark. Very foreboding, but last night everything was bright and burning. Fireworks going off and people were running from one shrine to another carrying handfuls, and I mean HANDFULS, of incense sticks.
There were lots of red in the air…red candles, red walls, red incense sticks…
And of course there are Chinese New Year specialty foods. The tradition usually calls for Nian Gao, or Tii Kwee. Known locally as Kue Keranjang, this sticky-sweet cake can be found in most supermarkets and traditional markets at this time of the year. It’s made from sticky rice and although to eat all of it at one go could be overwhelming, it usually keeps for several days, and you can deep fry them to eat any time later.
I am yet to sink my teeth in any kue keranjang this year, but I did buy some oranges-another traditional food to be eaten on the New Year. This is probably healthier anyway. 🙂
Oh, and just for the final kick, red lanterns galore!