CHEW Jetty folk in Weld Quay, Penang, are all revved up for their grand Hokkien New Year celebration tonight.
This ninth day of Chinese New Year, beginning midnight, is also the birthday of the Jade Emperor who is the numero uno deity in the Taoist pantheon.
The celebration, which dates back 109 years, will see the jetty residents dedicating a feast to the King of Heaven.
Every clan home will prepare roast pigs, chickens, ducks, thnee kong kuih (peach-shaped cakes), ang koo (red glutinous tortoise cakes) and huat kuih (pink prosperity cakes) and lay them out on a 50m-long table at the jetty entrance.
Chews no longer living at the jetty will also return and add to the plethora of food.
For visitors, Chew Jetty Kongsi will prepare 2,500 servings of fried bee hoon.
“We also have 2,000 angpow to give those who enter our temple,” said the kongsi vice-chairman Chew Teik Kiong.
A pile of joss paper, mostly folded into shapes of gold ingots or pineapples, will be set on fire as an offering.
“About 100,000 pieces will be set on fire. My family alone has folded about 1,000 pieces and there are over 100 families here,” Teik Kiong said.
He said the fire offering was the reason clansmen celebrated the King of Heaven’s birthday by the street.
“We are afraid of fire because all our homes are made of wood. So three or four generations ago, we started to honour the Jade Emperor together by the road,” he added.
The Chews will also carry the consecrated statue of Jade Emperor from the nearby Hean Boo Thean Temple in a procession.
The statue will be carried on a float shaped like a boat and then placed in an ornate wooden structure by the entrance.
Jetty resident Chew Seng San, 60, revealed a mystical event that happened during his childhood.
“There was an old man who was a medium and during the celebration, the Jade Emperor would descend into his body and communicate with us.
“He spoke in an old form of Mandarin that was hard to understand. He would bless us and could even cure the sick.
“We don’t have such a medium that the Jade Emperor will accept anymore,” said Seng San, who sells durian puffs on the jetty.
This year’s celebration has a political hue. Last month, Chew Jetty folk had a shock when the state government booked the public space for a show near the jetty entrance where the celebrations had been held every year.
Calling it a Cultural and Heritage Fest, the state government claimed it was only dishing out traditional entertainment while leaving the Chews to celebrate the Jade Emperor’s birthday.
Jetty residents then staged a protest against the state’s move because they had been organising the whole event all this while.
The clamour ended on Jan 19 when the state government and Chew Jetty Kongsi agreed to be joint organisers of the show.
The show will be from 8pm to 1.30am and some of the highlights will include daring lion dance stunts on stilts and a Monkey God performance.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng took a stroll along the jetty yesterday and presented a RM100,000 cheque to George Town World Heritage Incorporated to sponsor the cultural performances
Lim and also Barisan Nasional state chairman Teng Chang Yeow will grace the event tonight.