Chinese New Year in Penang

Well, it’s Chinese New Year. I have spent several of them here in Malaysia, but I have to admit I have been remiss in not really finding out exactly how the celebration runs.  So I’ll just tell you what I know.  I remember it is always hot and sunny here. Today is Chinese New Year Day, and indeed it is hot and sunny.

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9 o’clock this morning – hot and sunny

Another memory is of town at times being very quiet with no traffic, and at other times horrendous traffic. Yesterday the traffic was very light, and this morning is still very quiet. People return from wherever they are living to their families, so there is a lot of travel beforehand.

On new year’s eve the family reunion dinner is held – that would have been last night.

On the following days people visit each others’ houses to celebrate together. Children are given “ang pao” envelopes with money in them, and people give boxes of mandarins to each other, so in the shops at this time of year you see these nicely packaged mandarins for sale. Some people and organisations have so a called “open house”, whereby anyone can visit and eat free food. The popular ones are crowded, and you have to wait in a long queue.

And then there is the sound of drumming, signalling a lion dance.  These are to bestow good luck. As I write I can hear the drumming of a lion dance – it is being held on the rooftop of a nearby condo. Here are a couple of photos from previous years:

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lion dance

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larger scale lion dance

And then there are, of course, fireworks. The Malaysian government made them illegal. But people here ignore many laws with which they don’t agreed, and never agreed to in the first place – being an attack on their culture. So any time day or night is a good time to let off fireworks – from those small multiple exposion crackers to some huge boom you hear – and wonder if something has blown up. Sometimes in the middle of the night.

This site tells you a little more about CNY in Malaysia:

Happy year of the snake!


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