Chinese-Indonesians across the country celebrate Cap Go Meh (Hokkien: 十五暝) on the 15th day in the first month of the Chinese lunar New Year. In accordance to the combination of 10 Tian Gan and 12 Di Zhi in the lunar calendar system, Chinese ancestry in Indonesia (mostly referred as ‘Tionghoa’) are soon celebrating “Cap Go Meh” Festival. The word Cap Go Meh is coming from Tiociu or Hokkien dialect, “Cap Go”, which means “fifteenth” and “Meh” means night. last day of Chinese New Year, By many, the last celebration of new year means that everything from now on is everything that we will want to go about on fulfilling our new year resolutions.
The 2017 Cap Go Meh will be celebrated from 7 to 11 of February. Not only celebrated in Indonesia alone, but also other countries as well. Westerners may know it as “Lantern Festival” although it is not to be confused with “Mid-Autumn Festival”, which is sometimes also known as the Lantern Festival in locations such as South Korea, Malaysia, and Singapore. Some Indonesia’s neighboring countries, such as Malaysia and Singapore, are celebrating Chap Go Meh exactly the same name, same way but in Vietnam, the festival is called Tết Thượng Nguyên. In the origin land China, Cap Go Meh is called Yuanxiao or Shangyuan and Yuen Siu in Hong Kong.
The full moon always hangs up on the sky of Cap Go Meh. Interesting, isn’t it? According to Sino astrology, at the very beginning of a new year, when there is a bright full moon hanging in the sky, there should be thousands of colorful lanterns hung out for people to pay respect to their ancestors. At this time, people will write their hope and prayers on lanterns, eat glutinous rice balls named after the festival, yuanxiao (also known as tangyuan) and enjoy a family reunion. Regarded as a fetival of gratefulness and family reunion, Cap Go Meh is considered as important as the first day of the New Year itself.
There are many different beliefs about the origin of the Lantern Festival, however, it is likely to have had something to do with celebrating and cultivating positive relationships between people, families, nature and the higher beings that makes life becomes possible each year. One of the most believed belief is that the celebration was originally celebrated as a tribute to the god Thaiyi. Thaiyi god himself is considered as the supreme god of the sky by the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 221 AD). He was believed having sixteen dragons at his beck and had control to inflict drought, storms, famine or pestilence upon human beings. Began with Qinshihuang, the first emperor of China, who named China, all the emperors ordered splendid ceremonies for Taiyi each year. The ceremony was formerly done at night as it is covered only to the court and was not known by the general public. The illuminations are then prepared. However, by the era of Han Dynasty, the celebration was made open to the public and people are allowed to have fun. Since then, at nightfall, people will spread over the streets with various forms of lanterns.
In some city of Indonesia with dense Chinese population, such as Singkawang, Medan, Batam and Palembang, the night is even made merrier with the presence of fireworks and firecrackers. Under the full illuminated moon and around the illuminated lantern, who can bear the overdose romanticism created by the night? It’s just perfect.
The celebration is often equated with the Chinese version of Valentine’s Day feast. Yes. the old and youngsters, during the Cap Go Meh night, are “required” to have fun. However, in South East Asian countries, fellow single ladies are having special treatment! All single ladies (including them who are in relationship but have not yet married) will gather together and throw oranges into the sea. This unique custom is originated from Penang, Malaysia. Generally during the Cap Go Meh night, people are watching the dragon/lion dance (Indonesians called it as barongsai/liong) and gathering to play games while eating a special food called Yuan Xiao. In Indonesia, the special food that is eaten during Cap Go Meh is Lontong Cap Go Meh (a dish made of steamed rice in banana leaf with coconut-milk soup consisted mixed vegetables).
Singkawang during Cap Go Meh celebrations is jam-packed with people when the city reverberates with the drum beats and cymbals of lion dances, dragon dances, choi lam shin, when everyone awaits its highlight the parade of Tatung spiritual mediums Intended to repel misfortune for the entire year, Tatungs are the principle medium of the Cap Go Meh ritual here to ward off evil spirits, and cleanse the town and temples from evil and bad luck.
During the Tatung rituals, participants enter into a trance and perform many unbelievable actions, such as stepping on a sword, or piercing steel wires or nails into their cheeks or through their tongues. It is quite incredible to see that despite such torture, the Tatungs remain completely unscathed. Those who participate in this one-of-a-kind ritual are not only men, but also women and even children.
The cultural event is also included in Indonesia’s tourism calendar and regarded as national heritage and tourist attraction as well, especially for the province of western part of Kalimantan. During Cap Goh Meh, the Chinese here believe that Singkawang will be the central gathering place of the gods, whereas Chinese New Year (known as Imlek) is the time to devoutly thank God and pray for a better year.On the 15th day of the Chinese New Year, the city of Singkawang in West Kalimantan will come alive with sparkling festivities in connection with the Cap Go Meh celebration. Cap Go Meh in Singkawang attracts thousands of visitors not only from Indonesia but also from the ASEAN region and mainland China.
Uniquly, the 2017 Valentines day will be preceded with Cap Go Meh festival, Although not as merry as Cap Go Meh festival in Singkawang city, Batam and Bintan also held the yearly festival in much relaxed and warmer spirit, Money and fame shall not be the goal of your life, happiness is, especially a fond memories with your loved ones. If you would love to plan your relaxing trip to Batam and Bintan, do not hesitate to contact us for details.