Hokkien New Year Celebration: Night Festivities at Clan Jetties


Feeling happy that I was lucky to come across a procession in the late afternoon to mark the start of the Hokkien New Year celebrations in Penang, I was elated to see more fascinating festivities at night at the Clan Jetties area.

As mentioned in previous post, the Hokkien New Year or Jade Emperor’s Birthday is celebrated on the eighth day of the Lunar New Year. According to traditional beliefs, the Hokkiens in China were oppressed by evil forces and didn’t have the opportunity to celebrate the new year for a long time until one year, on the eighth day of the Lunar New Year, the Jade Emperor of Heaven came at midnight and liberated them. In Taoist religion, the Jade Emperor is regarded as the supreme deity.

To commemorate the liberation, the Hokkien-Chinese in Malaysia perform rituals known as “Pai Thee Kong” which means “worshipping the Jade Emperor” as thanksgiving for being able to celebrate the new year. To thank the deity, food is served to him and that ritual is symbolised by laying food on a table draped in red tablecloth. Some of the popular food items are sweet cakes, prosperity cakes, tortoise-shaped buns, pink rice flour buns, fruits and roasted suckling pigs.

The celebrations at Clan Jetties started from 7pm till midnight, and boy, it was grand. Rows of tables were lined up on one side of the road for devotees to place their offerings of food. There were performances to entertain the public – Chinese classical music, Chinese New Year songs, lion dances and chingay acrobatic stunts – all at the same time!

Here are some of the photos I took of the celebrations:

penang hokkien new year celebration taoist temple lanterns
Taoist temple at Chew Jetty beautifully lit with Chinese lanterns
penang hokkien new year celebration new year offerings temple
The faithful offer their prayers to the Jade Emperor deity inside the temple
penang hokkien new year celebration performers getting ready
Performers getting ready to be dressed like the deities

penang hokkien new year celebration performers dressed deities

penang hokkien new year celebration performers in costumes
Now they are fully dressed in costumes!
penang hokkien new year celebration food offerings
Food items offered to the deity as thanksgiving

penang hokkien new year celebration offerings

penang hokkien new year celebration roasted pig
Roasted suckling pig
penang hokkien new year celebration deity brought out
The deity is brought out from the temple

And here’s a short video of chingay acrobatic stunts..Chingay is street art where the performer balances a giant flag (on the forehead and sometimes on the mouth), and is mainly performed in celebration with the birthdays of Chinese deities as part of Chinese New Year festivities.  Today, Chingay is not only performed by the Chinese in Malaysia & Singapore but by other ethnic groups too, thus becoming a unique multi-racial performance.

To end the celebrations with a big bang, fireworks and firecrackers  were lit at midnight to welcome the New Year!

If you’re interested to see the festivities of Hokkien New Year in Penang, then time your visit by 15 February 2016 🙂

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