MALAYSIA and SINGAPORE
Chinese New Year
Actual celebrations starts on the day
before the new year, where family members gather for a
reunion dinner. Many Chinese Malaysians will travel back to
their hometown or family homes for this day. The reunion
dinner is the a major celebration and gathering for the
family - a once a year affair for many who have children
working out of town. Many Taoists and Buddhist Chinese will
go to the temple to pray for blessings for a good year.
Temples are also
crowed in the morning of the New Year where many offer prayers to
ancestors and gods and ask for blessing for a good year. On
Chinese New Year day relatives and
friends visit each other to offer their good wishes and it is customary to give mandarin
oranges during a visit, as a token of good luck and
prosperity. New year gifts of food (s.a. cookies, dates,
oranges, liquor, groundnuts, etc.) are also exchange between
relatives, friends and business associates. Married couples are obliged to give red packets filled with money
(called Angpow in Malaysian Hokkien or Hong bao in Mandarin) to children of relatives or
The New Year celebrations
traditionally extend to 15 days, where the 15th day is the Chap Goh Meh
festival. The most important festival during the 15 days of the
new year, for the Hokkiens in Malaysia and Singapore, is the
Festival of the Jade Emperor, celebrated on the 9th day of the
new year. What Malaysians and Singaporeans normally do:
Chinese New Year
Mandarin Orange is a must for
Chinese New Year
Before Chinese New Year
Clean the house - spring cleaning.
Prepare Chinese New Year Cakes, cookies or
biscuits (e.g. kueh kapit or love letters, kueh bulu,
kueh bunga, Nian Gao, etc)
Shop for new clothes, curtains, Chinese New
Year decoration, food, new year gifts, etc....
Stock up food for the long holidays.
Balik Kampong or go back to their family
home or hometown. The family reunion dinner is held on Chinese
New Year Eve. Its usually at home or at a restaurant.
Visit the temple to offer prayers.
Chinese New Year
Dress up, family gather to pay respect and good
Visit the temple to offer prayers
Enjoy family gathering
Visit relatives and Chinese friends, with
mandarin oranges to offer new year wishes.
Have open houses, invite friends and relatives
usually to eat New Year cookies and celebrate the new year.
Eating and feasting on cakes and other New Year
While adults give out ang pow (red
packets), children receive them.
Go for holidays, see a show, dinning or
New year is also a time where many gambles -
usually a friendly game of cards among friends and relatives!
Cleaning the house - A traditional
belief of sweeping out the ill fortune of the old year.
Sweeping out is not recommended on New Year's Day for fear of
sweeping away the good fortune that the new year brings.
Debts - Settling or paying off old
debts and collect what is owed to you before the new year, so
your fortunes are not lost and you will prosper.
Other Chinese Festivals
Chap Goh Meh (in the Hokkien dialect) is the last day of the Chinese Spring festival
or New Year celebrations or 15th day of the Chinese lunar
calendar. Chinese normally celebrate by having a grand dinner and
Buddhists and Taoist Chinese mark the day with offerings and
prayers. In the old, single girls will throw tangerines into the
sea - a belief that that will bring them a good spouse......
Festival of the Heavenly God or Jade Emperor
day of the Chinese lunar calendar) This festival starts on the early morning of the
9th day of the Chinese lunar calendar (after midnight of the 8th
day). It is the most important spring festival for the Hokkiens
(mainly descendents from Fujian province, China), a
celebration which is celebrated widely by the Buddhist and Taoists
Chinese in Malaysia. The celebration marks the birthday of the
Jade Emperor or Guardian or Heavenly God, who lives in the centre
of the universe. The most important offering for the Hokkien clan/
community is 'kam chia' or sugar cane. (Read story below)
In Penang, this
festival is celebrated with in a grand scale, and can be observed
at the Clan Jetties, near the ferry terminal (see
map of George Town).
The height of celebration starts near midnight on the 8th day of
the Chinese lunar calendar. Prayers and offering are made to the
god in front of the homes of many Chinese in the country (Photo:
typical offerings to in homes). Houses are usually brightly lit on
this night. There is usually fireworks on a feast after the
One of the many legend of this
celebration: Story of the Hokkien clan and
prominance of the sugar can plant:
During the Song Dynasty (Mongol dynasty) most of the clans in Southern
China (Fujian, Henan, Zhejiang) were heavily repressed and lived
under great fear of the Mongols. The Hokkien clan were
constantly at the mercy of the Mongols who attacked and hunted
them, because the Hokkiens are seen a threat to the empire.
The Hokkiens then fled to the Henan province where sugarcane
plantations were in abundance. Though many were killed by the
pursuing Mongols, a group of Hokkiens managed to hide themselves among the sugarcane plants.
pursuing Mongols searched the area for days but never located
the remaining Hokkiens.
The Mongols eventually gave up and returned to their
base. On the ninth day of the Chinese Calendar, the Hokkiens happily emerged from their hideout praising
the celestial deities for saving them and believed that the
Heavenly God had protected them. Thus, from then on, in all Hokkien celebrations, the sugarcane plant is given
That is why the Ninth day is regarded as the day of
salvation by the Hokkien community. As offering to the Heavenly
God, a pair of sugarcane plants is
usually placed, one on each side of the offering table. The pair
symbolises unity, cooperation and strength. Sugarcane symbolises
harmony, which brings all good outcome. The straightness of the
sugarcane stem to ensure that the Hokkiens become a clan of
honest and sincere people; the cane stalk with multiple nodes
symbolises continuous growth.
The Dongzhě Festival /Tang
Chek Festival or Winter Solstice Festival 冬至
festival originated from China, as early as 770-476 BC. Ancient
Chinese astronomers divided the whole year into 24 solar terms
according to climate changes. The Chinese also found that the
Winter Solstice was the shortest daytime and longest night
time in the whole year. After winter solstice, daytime will
grow increasingly longer as the sun slowly moves back to the
northern hemisphere. Hence, Winter Solstice is a solar term in
Chinese lunar calendar and often falls on December 22 or 23
(solar calendar) every year.
The festival that fall on this date is known as Dongzhi Festival
or Tang Chek (in Hokkien) . During the Tang and Song
Dynasties, ancestor worship was performed on the Winter
Solstice. Today this tradition of celebrating Winter Solstice is
a cultural practice for many Chinese worldwide and it is
considered as an auspicious celebration.
In Malaysia and Singapore, the Dongzhi Festival is celebrated as
family get together event. It is the time where families gather
to make and eat tangyuan (湯圓)
or balls of glutinuous rice balls, which symbolize reunion.
Tangyuan are made of glutinuous rice which is grounded to a
flour and then coloured. The flour balls may be plain or
stuffed (with a sweet bean paste or ground nuts). They are
cooked in a sweet light syrup or savoury broth. Some Chinese
Taoist and Buddhist will make tangyuan offering to their
ancestors on this day. Many Chinese also consider this a
cultural event, a time for a family gathering.
Festival of the
Nine Emperor Gods
(according to lunar calendar -
This festival falls on the ninth day of the ninth
moon in the Chinese lunar calendar.
Emperor Gods are spiritual mediums believed to dwell in the stars
in heaven. On the eve of the ninth moon, temples of the Deities
hold a ceremony to welcome the gods. The
rituals during the festival acts as a channel between celestial
beings and humans for the salvation and protection of mankind.
The Gods are believed to
travel through the waterways so processions are held from temples
to the seashore or river.
The celebration lasts for 9 days. Many
devotees throng to the temples to offer prayers and follow a
vegetarian diet during this period. On the 9th day ends
usually with a fire-walking ritual.
In Penang temples are crowded
and streets are lined with stalls selling praying items of
Hungry Ghost Festival
Hungry Ghost Festival is linked to the Chinese practice of
ancestor worship. According to traditional Chinese belief, the
seventh month of the lunar calendar is the time when restless
spirits of the dead roam the earth.
Many temples will hold prayer ceremonies throughout the
month-long Hungry Ghost Festival (Phor Thor) to appease the
spirits. Chinese households will pray and make offerings of food
and faux money, to 'ghosts' and their ancestors to use in the
afterlife, often particularly on the 15th day of this lunar
month, which is the Yu Lan or Hungry Ghost Festival.
In many major towns/places of Malaysia such as, Kuala
Lumpur, PJ, Penang, Johor Bahru, etc, one of the main highlights
festival is the performance of Chinese operas, staged on
temporary wooden stages.
Dragon Boat Festival /
(according to lunar calendar
This festival marks the death of a Chinese poet and scholar
Qu Yuan who drowned in 296 BC in
. When people heard of his
disappearance, they scoured the river in boats to rescue him,
beating their drums to scare off the fishes from nibbling at his
body. Unable to find his body, they made glutinous rice dumplings
wrapped in bamboo leaves and threw them into the river in the hope
that the fishes would eat these dumplings instead of his remains. To commemorate the occasion, boats were decorated
with dragon heads on their bows.
This day falls on the fifth day of
the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar.The tradition of making dumplings
(called 'chang')is celebrated by the Chinese community in
with the offering of the dumplings
to the gods and their ancestors. The festival is celebrated in
annually with an international
dragon boat competition which is immensely popular and attracts
participants from all over the world.
Cheng Beng (April) This
event falls on the third month of the lunar calendar and usually
coincides with April. It is the Chinese equivalent of All Souls’
Day. During this month, the Chinese will visit the cemeteries to
clean the ancestral graves and make offerings to the spirits of
their departed loved ones.
festival or Moon Cake festival (15th day of the 8th month of the
calendar) - celebrated by the Chinese to
commemorate the overthrow of the Mongol dynasty in Ancient China.
In Malaysia, Singapore and many Asian countries, shops sell a variety of mooncakes which are
often offered during prayers to the moon
fairy or ancesters. These cakes are also exchanged as gifts among relatives and friends
during the month before the festival.
In Malaysia and Singapore, this is also the lantern festival. Children would light colourful lanterns in the
shape of animals or other fun objects during the night.
In some parts of
Malaysia a lantern procession or display is held to mark this day.
How to make moon cake at our
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