It’s still a nonplus for all of us to witness how the Covid epidemic has changed the world and patterns of various aspects into a new norm. For better or worse, we’re exposed to virtual practice as a getaway from the contagious virus.
Despite the uprise of Covid vaccinations herd immunity, we still see the reluctance to complete physical activities among people. In many ways, the hybrid mode (physical activities with a mixture of online interactions) is still imposed by organizers to adhere to precautionary measures.
The Chinese New Year celebration in Malaysia, in pre-pandemic days, will normally see the involvement of many crowds across the country that has made this festival the largest annual holiday of all time. Nonetheless, the resurgent pandemic has brought a tremendous impact on that custom. Not in a bad way, but differently.
We experienced the quietest New Year in 2021 when the family reunion and visitations outside of the distance radius were prohibited due to the Movement Control Order (MCO). This year, however, things got better with the recommence of the usual customs such as family and friends gathering, fireworks, trips across states, and shopping binges.
While the events are still happening, fellow Malaysian Chinese celebrate the festival on a moderate scale, all due to the existing SOPs. All annual events that used to be bustling with noises aren’t excluded from this condition. Today, we’d like to pick a few of them and share how they have changed compared to the previous years.
Penang CNY Celebration in George Town, Penang
(Image credit: 槟城庙会 Penang CNY Celebration)
Commenced in 1999, Penang CNY Celebration is an annual folk cultural festival founded by the Chinese ancestral halls to promote the local Chinese traditional art scene to the public. Typically, it’s held in the Heritage Precinct of George Town, Penang where it involved the closure of numerous streets for various food and exhibitions such as performing arts, traditional games, arts and crafts, and more.
This state-level event is an iconic feature that contributes to the growth of the tourism industry and the inheritance of Chinese culture. Thus, fellow committee members still strive to keep the celebration alive despite the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic. A year ago, we see the used-to-be lively celebration to be evolved into a completely virtual setting. Optimistically, the celebration this year has been shifted into a hybrid style where some physical stalls and displays are available within 5th- 6th February 2022 and 12th- 13th February 2022 (SOPs applied), and the rest remain online.
For those who are interested in checking out more about the event this year, feel free to visit their website now.
Thean Hou Temple, Kuala Lumpur
(Image credit: Thean Hou Temple Malaysia)
Built in 1987 and officially opened in 1989, the Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur was founded by The Selangor & Federal Territory Hainan Association, a group that has marked more than 130 years since its establishment in the year 1889.
Typically, the temple was opened to the public for the Chinese New Year celebration, prayer services, auspicious light display, lion dance, and Hainan Tiger Dance Show. It’s commonly known as one of the largest and beautifully decorated temples in Malaysia. With the government’s SOP, the celebration this year is open to the public from the 4th to the 15th of Lunar New Year, 7am to 12am daily for most of the activities except for lion and Hainan Tiger dance shows.
Be sure to check out this venue (No appointment is needed to visit the temple) this CNY.
Jade Emperor Parade At Chew Jetty, Penang
(Image credit: Eppie Lee at Penang CHEW Jetty)
Chinese Hokkiens are familiar with this. On the 9th day of Chinese New Year, many will set up their offering altars and begin their prayer to celebrate Thnee Kong Seh’s (Jade Emperor) birthday at midnight. On the other hand, Chew Jetty, one of the Clan Jetties in Penang with wooden stilt houses around a walkway in a waterside village that became a tourist attraction, hosted a yearly Jade Emperor Parade outside of the walkway with performances, offerings, and prayer activities in response to this significant day.
The grand feast usually attracted more than 10,000 visitors to join the fun. In fear of the Covid-19 cluster, the celebration for this event has been cancelled for the second year in a row. The decision was made to ensure the health and safety of the families living at the Chew Jetty itself.
We may not be lucky to experience the festival this year, but we do hope that the situation will get better in the following years so that we can see that the vibrant feast is revived again.
Chingay Parade, Johor
(Image credit: 柔佛潮州八邑會館)
Founded in 1933, the Teochew Eight District Association in Johor Bahru usually hosted an annual Chinese New Year Gala which consists of performances, parade, distribution of the winter camp completion certificate, and incentives award ceremony to the primary and high school children of the district members.
With the new norm in times of pandemic, most of the events and seminars are carried out through online live streaming instead. This year, the Teochew Eight District Association released a series of “Longqiu Pagoda” divine clothes to the public (RM18 for each round neckcloth and RM20 for the Zhongshan collars). Donors are allowed to request the delivery of clothes to their doorsteps or collect directly at the hall.
You may browse through more details about the divine cloth collection on their official website.
Chap Goh Meh At Esplanade, Penang
Known as Esplanade in English, Padang Kota Lama is the seafront field (adjacent to Fort Cornwallis) in Georgetown, near the port jetty. This big field becomes the iconic location for various big events, that includes Chap Goh Meh as well. It usually attracts many locals and tourists with the fireworks, food stalls, stage performances, other street shows, and also the orange tossing activities. Although it causes traffic congestion whenever there’s an event taking place, people still flocked to it and join in the fun all the time.
The orange tossing wasn’t held last year due to the MCO. This year, on contrary, we’re expecting the event to be continued on 15th February 2022 by having three separate auspicious times for orange tossing: 9am-11am, 1pm- 3pm, and 9pm- 11pm. While we hope the activities to be carried out like before, it’s still best for everyone to check for the latest updates when the event date’s approaching.
The preservation of this matchmaking tradition is a brilliant idea. We urge you to not forget the safety guidelines while having fun (if it’s happening as usual).
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(Featured Image Credit: Photo by Red Morley Hewitt on Unsplash)