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Jakartans celebrate Cap Go Meh
Publication Date : 26-02-2013
Hundreds of people stood around a man wearing a traditional Chinese commander’s costume, reciting prayers before an altar at the Jakarta Fairground (PRJ) field in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, on Sunday.
After praying, he climbed onto a palanquin equipped with a seat made of sharp machetes. With his eyes closed, he danced on the sharp machetes to a drum beat.
The audience watched as several tatung performers, people believed to be possessed by the spirits of ancestors, stood on machete knife edges and pierced their faces with needles.
The famous tatung performance, from Singkawang in West Kalimantan, is one of the traditions that mark Cap Go Meh, the 15th day of the Chinese New Year.
Unlike the usual Cap Go Meh celebrations, a number of tatung groups in Jakarta held their ritual at the exhibition centre.
Berbudi temple caretaker Setiadi Dharma Wijaya said the tatung tradition, which was a form of prayer to ask for a better future in the coming year, was normally conducted in the streets.
“But we prefer performing tatung here because it is safer,” he said, adding that on-street celebrations could disturb traffic and cause chaos.
After the tatung ritual was over, the temples auctioned items from the altar to the audience. It is believed that the items will bring luck to owners.
In addition to tatung, PT Jakarta International Expo (JIEexpo) - the operator of the fairground - held a series of five-day festivities to mark Cap Go Meh.
JIExpo promotion and sponsorship manager Liana Wati said celebrations began on Wednesday with various activities on offer, including Chinese cultural attractions like barongsay (lion dance), Chinese acrobatics and culinary events.
“We also provided fortune tellers for free and angpao [red envelopes containing money] that visitors could exchange their tickets for,” she said, adding that the committee charged 25,000 Indonesian rupiah (US$2.57) per person as entrance fee.
Liana said 18,000 people had visited the fairground as of Sunday afternoon.
“I am optimistic that we can reach the target of 20,000 visitors in these five days this year,” she said, adding that 17,000 visitors were recorded last year.
She said the company also prepared 150 stalls to spoil visitors with discounts and sales.
Liana said the event was intended for everyone, not only Chinese people.
“Cap Go Meh is a celebration where people gather with their beloved ones, including friends. So, we want everyone to celebrate it,” she said.
Melly, 40, visited the fairground with her family on a culinary adventure.
“There is nothing special actually, but since all kinds of food are available here, it is fun,” she said.
“[To celebrate Cap Go Meh] my family went to a nearby temple in the morning to pray and had lunch together [afterward],” she said.
Despite being ethnically Chinese, Melly said her parents did not usually celebrate Cap Go Meh either.
Another visitor, Abdurohim, 35, said he and his family came to experience Chinese culture.
“I don’t know about Cap Go Meh, but I am keen to see attractions like tatung and barongsay,” he said.