THE 3.5km stretch of Jalan Raja Uda in Butterworth is now aglow with 18,000 red lanterns to set the mood for the Chinese New Year celebrations.
The oval orbs, made of satin cloth decorated with golden tassels at the base, now grace this central road of Butterworth from the north near Bagan Ajam to the town centre near Jalan Heng Choon Thian.
This annual embellishment since eight years ago began with just 5,000 lanterns.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who launched the lighting-up ceremony on Thursday night, said the number of lanterns had increased over the years, thanks to contributions from the private sector.
Several cultural performances were held to entertain the big crowd during the ceremony near SJKC Kwang Hwa.
Also present were Penang State Assembly Speaker Datuk Law Choo Kiang, state executive councillors Lim Hock Seng, Chong Eng and Phee Boon Poh, Bagan Dalam assemblyman A. Tanasekharan, Seberang Prai Municipal Council president Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif and secretary Rozali Mohamud.
The main sponsors of the red lanterns are Nikaco Holdings Sdn Bhd managing director Datuk Chin Poh Chye and businessman Datuk Hong Yeam Wah.
“Last year, 15,000 lanterns were installed at a cost of RM250,000.
“This year, 18,000 lanterns cost us over RM500,000 due to increase in labour, transportation and materials.
“It is more expensive but we want Butterworth to be beautiful both for tourists and the balik kampung crowd,” Lim said.
Lim, who is also Bagan MP said he would contribute some funds from his constituency allocation.
The tradition of hanging up red lanterns began during China’s Qing Dynasty in the 1600s and symnbolise joy, fortune and reunion.
Some historical experts have theorised that the modern concept of street lighting stemmed from European contact with China, where lanterns had long been used to illuminate gateways and courtyards.
The lights will be switched on from 7pm to 7am daily until Chap Goh Meh.