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Celebrating Chinese New Year in Batam

Batam has become a melting pot, living in peace and harmony. Chinese communities in Batam, representing the ethnic Chinese of Indonesia, and neighbouring countries of Singapore, and Malaysia, as well as Chinese and Taiwanese nationals. The Indonesian-Chinese live side by side with the rest of the population in Batam, and work to develop the island into a friendly place we all call home. With the harmonious society, any celebration is shared and rejoiced together.

This year's celebration of Chinese New Year, the Horse Year, was no different, where Chinese and non-Chinese awaited the day enthusiastically and then celebrated the event, the first day of Chinese New Year on February 12, 2002. This togetherness is what the Chinese New Year is all about.

Prior to the celebration, shops in Batam were well decorated with red, the symbol of joy, happiness, and well wishes. Houses and shops were swept, cleaned and repainted to cast away any traces of had luck in the past year and to welcome the prosperous coming year. Shoppers were full for the preparation, getting food and snacks for the festive, buying flowers and new clothes for the celebration, and incense for rituals.

On the Chinese New Year's Eve. most restaurants in Batam served special Chinese buffets for the family meals and gatherings. This annual feast brings families together, travelling from near and far, celebrating the eve with loved ones. The dinner feast is usually comprised of seafood and dumplings, which signifies the different good wishes seafood indicating liveliness and happiness, dried ousters for all things good, boiled dumplings a long-lost good wish for a family. Tourists also flocked to Batam, mostly from Singapore and Malaysia, to celebrate the Chinese New Year here, or merely just to get away and relax.

On the day celebration, the spirit of celebration was everywhere. Family visits, food and drinks served, well-wishes expressed. Incense was burned, when some visited temples and pagodas, to commemorate and attend religious rituals. A Vihara in Nagoya was crowded by Singaporeans and Malaysians paying their respects to their ancestors through prayers. Batam's largest Buddhist temple, one of the largest in Southeast Asia, noted that on the first day of the celebration, there were 5,000 people, with a third of the them coming from overseas.

The communities in Batam always look forward to the Chinese New Year, some for the performance of the Lion Dance, commonly known as 'Barongsai' among Indonesians. This dance is performed at various venues, in restaurants, shopping malls, and temples. The dance to welcome good prosperity in the New Year, symbolizes Tuck and power, attracts many young and old across race, religion and ethnic differences. Money wrapped in red envelopes (hong bao) for well-wishes of prosperity, were given by the older to the younger, employers to employees, parents to children.

Although it is not a national holiday in Indonesia, it is acceptable for those celebrating the day to take leave. However, starting next year, it is officially a national holiday as declared by Ms. Megawatt Soekarnoputri, the President of Indonesia. This will certainly bring a more celebrated occasion next year and more understanding of Chinese cultures, and a more harmonious living environment throughout Indonesia.

Joy, happiness and well-wishes are part of the celebration of Chinese New Year in Batam. Wish you were here with us to share and celebrate!


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