Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cap Go Meh celebrated, with a local touch

A mixture of local and Chinese tradition will mark the celebration of Cap Go Meh throughout Indonesia.

The holiday, observed on the 15th day after the Chinese New Year, which is locally known as Imlek.

In Yogyakarta, a parade of 2.5-meter-tall gunungan, cone-shaped offerings of rice and food, will be held on Saturday night, beginning at the Abubakar Ali parking lot, proceeding along Jl. Malioboro and ending at the city’s Kilometer Zero point.

For this year’s observance of Cap Go Meh, the gunungan will take the form of a humongous kue keranjang, a brown, sticky cake that is a hallmark of the holiday.

“The idea is to mix Imlek traditions with the gunungan, which is a tradition of the Yogyakarta 
Palace,” the chairwoman of Yogyakarta Chinese Cultural Week, Tri Kirana Muslidatun, said in a release.

In Yogyakarta, gunungan are usually presented at celebrations held by the Yogyakarta Palace during Idul Fitri, at the end of the Ramadhan fasting month; on Idul Adha, the Islamic day of sacrifice; and on Maulid Nabi, or the birthday of the Prophet Mhammad.

Tri said the procession would also feature 6,666 pieces of kue keranjang, symbolizing the Year of the Snake, which is the sixth of the 12 years in the Chinese zodiac.

There will also be a dance performance featuring a giant 134-meter liong, or dragon, manipulated 150 Air Force airmen. The liong performance in Yogyakarta may be the biggest ever in Southeast Asia.

In Semarang, Central Java, Chinese-Indonesians are expected to observe Cap Go Meh in family celebrations by serving the popular dish lontong cap go meh, which mixes Chinese and Javanese traditions.

Lontong (steamed rice in banana leaves) is usually served sliced with various side dishes.

“A complete lontong cap go meh requires 14 different side dishes. But for the simple one, five are just enough,” Jongkie Tio said in Semarang on Friday.

Jongkie, who is also an author, said that it was not clear how the tradition was started, stating that serving lontong cap go meh typically capped the observance of Imlek by Chinese-Indonesians.

Cap Go Meh, which is observed when the first full moon appears 15 days after Imlek, literally means the eve of 15th.

While there are typically no special parties held by the Chinese-Indonesian community in Semarang to celebrate Cap Go Meh, the popularity of lontong cap go meh has proven to be a money maker for local lontong makers.

Mardiyah of Jl. Tirtoyoso IV in Semarang said that she has prepared 4,000 lontong cap go meh that she will sell until Saturday morning. 

The delicacy, which she sells for Rp 1,250 (12 US cents) on normal days, goes for Rp 2,000 during the holiday.

A blend of local and Chinese traditions can also be found on Kemaro Island in Palembang, South Sumatra.

The organizing committee of the local Cap Go Meh celebration has received dozens of goats donated by Chinese-Indonesians.

“Last year, we received some 180 goats and this year we may receive the same number,” organizing committee chairman Chandra Husein said on Friday in Palembang.

The Cap Go Meh celebration on Kemaro Island is unique, as it is observed on the 13th day after Imlek, instead of on the 15th day. It is also unique in its sacrifice of goats, and not pigs.

The 13th day was chosen so that pilgrims and visitors can pray at other temples on the 15th day.

“As for goats, it is a message from buyut, who forbids the sacrifice of pigs, as she is a Muslim,” Chandra said, referring to Siti Fatimah.

Fatimah was a local girl who was said to have married Tan Bu An, a Chinese prince. The story of their love and subsequent marriage provides the basis for the Legend of Kemaro.

In Pontianak, West Kalimantan, Cap Go Meh will be observed by a special culinary night market held on Jl. Diponegoro in the city’s downtown. 

A gate with special Chinese accessories has been installed on the edges of the street where the night market will be held.

Over 50 kiosks will be available, offering various local specialties and other goods and services, including motorcycles and banking. The night market opened on Wednesday and will close on Sunday.

“Hopefully this will become a tourist attraction, not only for domestic but also for foreign tourists,” the chairman of the culinary night market, Buyung Junardi said.

The market operates from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. local time. To create a merrier environment, different folk entertainment will be presented on stage.

In Medan, as well as in other cities in North Sumatra, residents will observe Cap Go Meh through culinary feasts and various performances.

A number of places have started the preparations for celebrations, including the Mahakaruna Buddhist Center’s (MKBC) Cemara Abadi Auditorium in Medan and the Sultan Agung Auditorium in Pematang Siantar.

The MKBC will feature traditional performances by the International Buddhist Culture Center as well as by performers from Jakarta.

There will also be a dinner serving lau yi shen, followed by an offering of prayers for protection to Buddha, the Bodhisattvas and to the God of Protection for success, good fortune, harmony, welfare and long life.

In Pematang Siantar, there will be traditional dances from the Simalungun, Toba and Karo Batak communities, as well as from the local Dairi, Nias, Malayu, Javanese, South Tapanuli and Indonesian-Chinese communities. 

There will also be barongsay (lion dance) performances from the Maha Vihara Vidya Maitreya and Vihara Avalokithesvara temples. 

The chairman of the North Sumatra chapter of Walubi, Indra Wahidin, said that the Cap Go Meh celebration offered momentum to create a sense of togetherness, openness, solidarity and commitment to bind all elements of society. (Jakarta Post)

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