THOUSANDS of Hokkien Taoists braved the rain to pay homage to the Jade Emperor God at the Chew Jetty in George Town, Penang.
A downpour started at about 10.30pm on Saturday when the devotees started their prayers at a 36.5m-long altar at the entrance to the jetty.
Fortunately, the rain stopped before midnight in time for the deity’s birthday which falls on the ninth day of the Lunar New Year yesterday.
Businessman Kristopher Lim, 43, spared no expense by offering items such as roast meat, ang koo (bean paste cake), mee koo (red tortoise bun), huat kuih (prosperity cake) and fruits.
He said the offerings were a gesture of thanksgiving for the blessings he received over the years.
“It is a blessing to be able to pay homage every year. We pray humbly for happiness, health and wealth in the Year of the Fire Rooster,” he said.
Chew Jetty Kongsi chairman Chew Choon Seng said this was the 110th year the residents of the clan jetty had held a mass Thnee Kong Seh (Jade Emperor God’s birthday) celebration.
Another focal point of the celebration in Penang was the Thnee Kong Tnua Temple in Air Itam.
Among the crowd there on Saturday was retiree Chan Eng Nya, 70, who has been paying homage to the Jade Emperor God at the temple for 20 years.
The grandmother of three came to the temple in the evening with eight of her family members, bearing offerings such as pineapple, mandarin oranges, apples and ang koo.
“I consider it a tradition to pray for peace and health on the eighth day of Chinese New Year.
“In the past, I came with my children and now they have their own children; so all three generations will come together,” she said.
Also at the temple were salesman Wong Yaw Keong, 43, and his family, who travelled from Terengganu.
“Regardless of the distance, we make it a point to keep coming back for spiritual reasons. The celebration is very joyful here,” said Wong.
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, who visited both Chew Jetty and the Thnee Kong Tnua Temple, said he allocated RM50,000 from his office to help the temple install lighting which cost RM67,000.
The temple’s board of trustees chairman Datuk Seri Khoo Keat Siew said the Chief Minister had observed that the temple and its surroundings were pitch dark when he visited the place during the celebration last year.
He said the temple was now aglow with lights after the Chief Minister gave the funds.
Among those at the Chew Jetty celebration with Lim were Padang Kota assemblyman Chow Kon Yeow and Tanjong MP Ng Wei Aik.
Barisan Nasional politicians also joined the devotees at Chew Jetty.
They included Penang MCA chairman Datuk Tan Teik Cheng, Penang MCA secretary Dr Tan Chuan Hong, Komtar MCA task force chief Tan Hing Teik, Padang Kota MCA task force chief Lim Swee Bok and Penang Gerakan vice-chairman Oh Tong Keong.
The visitors at the clan jetty were entertained with colourful performances including a lion dance on stilts, chingay and acrobatic shows. At midnight, fireworks lit up the sky.
Many tourists who came to witness the event were awed by the celebration.