Bright start to the lunar new year

Red lanterns strung along Jalan Pasar in Bukit Mertajam for the Chinese New Year celebrations. — Photos: ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

THE old town centre of Bukit Mertajam glows red every night now, giving locals that warm nostalgia of the Chinese New Year festive mood.

Several roads in Bukit Mertajam are now aglow with red lanterns and decorations to mark CNY.

The 5,000 lanterns, installed for the fourth year, will be lit every night until mid February.

The lighting up ceremony saw a slew of activities including an array of traditional delicacies prepared by the Hokkien, Kwong Waai Siew, Hainan Hakka and Teochew communities.

There were also lion, dragon and cultural dance performances as well as dough figurine-making, highlighting the Year of the Rat.

Apart from Jalan Pasar where the lighting ceremony was held, Jalan Tokong, Jalan Danby, Jalan Bunga Raya, Jalan Station, Jalan Datuk Ooh Chooi Cheng, Jalan Arumugam Pillai and Jalan Aston will be lit from 7pm till 1am until the 15th day of the lunar new year.

Organising chairman Datuk Ong Kok Sun said since the event started three years ago, they have seen increased business activities in the old town.

Ong, who is also chairman of the Seberang Prai Hokkien Association, said they hoped to bring back the vibrancy of Bukit Mertajam like it was in the ‘old days’.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow, who was guest of honour, commended the organising committee for the good job, while taking note of the new additions such as a grand stage, a 5.5m-tall arch and other exciting programmes that were added this year.

“They have added figurine-making, handmade wax flowers, more handicraft items and a board games booth, among others.

“The committee members are dedicated to presenting traditional folk culture and the uniqueness of those traditions so that the younger generation can be in touch with the traditions from a young age and learn to love and care for the culture, which is valuable.

“It shows the Chinese community’s persistence in inheriting Chinese traditional culture, ” he said.

Chow said it was understood that many old shops in Bukit Mertajam town centre had closed for many years now.

“However, since the committee members have actively promoted the festival, the old shops have gradually regained the favour of investors and tenants.

“Therefore, I believe that Bukit Mertajam will regain the glory of its past, ” he said.

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