DESPITE falling on a weekday and amid the coronavirus scare, the birthday of resident deity Cheng Chooi Chor Soo Kong saw a steady stream of devotees thronging the Hock Hin Keong (Ban Ka Lan Snake Temple) in Bayan Lepas, Penang.
The celebration which falls on the sixth day of Chinese New Year, saw people thronging the temple with offerings of eggs, traditional delights, oranges and bags of rice, among others to offer thanks and prayers for a good year.
Housewife Elaine Lim, 62, wore a face mask as she gave thanks and prayed for a good year.
“This is my first time visiting the temple during this celebration.
“My friends often come here every year and this time, I decided to follow them.
“We are here to give thanks and pray for a happy and healthy year.
“I wore the mask because we have been told to take safety precautions by the Health Ministry.
“It is always better to be safe.
“I will not deny that I am afraid of going to crowded places without a mask, ” she said when met at the temple in Bayan Lepas on Thursday.
Lim said she usually did not wear a mask outdoors unless she knew it would be crowded.
Engineer Lean Boon Wah, 43, came to give thanks and ask for a prosperous and successful year before heading off to work.
“I brought two cartons of eggs as it is a tradition that I have followed since I was young.
“I have been visiting this temple since I was young and my parents would bring eggs.
“There is a belief that snakes like eating eggs.
“We just follow because it is a tradition to bring them as offering.
“I am grateful for the year that has passed and want to wish for a healthy, happy and fruitful year, ” he said.
Flight attendant Veronica Auer, 33, from Austria, found the temple interesting as she checked out the snakes coiled on tree branches.
“I have never seen anything like this before.
“I am here with my boyfriend who has come to pray.
“I feel privileged to be here and experience such a celebration.
“This is my first time at a snake temple and to see live snakes, people praying and bringing offerings is really interesting, ” she said adding she was still figuring out the significance of the celebration.
The Snake Temple is managed by the Hokkien Kongsi, Penang.
It is believed that the deity was a Chinese Buddhist monk who provided free medical treatment to the people and many were healed under his care.
Legend has it that the deity gave shelter to the snakes in the jungle and when the temple was completed, the snakes moved in and were regarded as the deity’s protectors.
On Wednesday night, thousands of devotees gathered at the temple for the Chneah Hoay (flame-watching) ceremony.
Through the ritual, devotees learnt about the deity’s predictions on how the economy would fare this year.
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