UNLIKE previous celebrations, this year’s Nine Emperor Gods Festival is expected to be celebrated in a subdued manner in view of the spike in Covid-19 cases in the country.
The temples will stay open, with strictly restricted entry, and there will be no processions, fire-walking, Chinese opera shows or free vegetarian meals.
Over at the Tow Boo Kong Temple in Butterworth, which is one of the biggest temples in Penang, its chairman Datuk Khor Wan Tat, 50, said strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) would be adhered to during the festival, which will start tomorrow and end on Oct 25.
“Any large gathering is strictly prohibited. Events like the procession and fire-walking rite are cancelled this year.
“The temple will only be open for devotees from 6am until 11.45pm and not for 24 hours like the previous years.
“We will only have a maximum of 250 people in the temple compound at any one time.
“A maximum of 50 devotees are allowed into the prayer hall. There will be no opera shows this year, ” he said.
On the island, the Macallum Street Tow Boh Keong Kew Ong Tai Tay Temple will also scale down the celebrations.
“The procession to receive and send off the deities will be cancelled.
“The kitchen will be closed, so there will be no vegetarian meals served.
“All other rituals are called off as well. The temple will be open from 7am to 9pm for devotees to pray.
“Uniformed authorities and staff will be stationed for crowd control, ” the temple declared in a statement.
The temple discourages children under the age of 12 and those over 70 years old from going.
“Devotees must register or sign in using the MySejahtera app and have their temperatures taken.
“Those who do not wear a mask will not be allowed to enter.
“Only 15 devotees are allowed to enter the hall to worship at a time.
“Devotees are not allowed to stay in the temple premises after making their offerings.
“They must maintain a physical distance of 1m apart, ” he said.
State social development and non-Islamic religious affairs committee chairman Chong Eng said the public must always be vigilant and follow the SOP.
“In the past, the Nine Emperor Gods Festival was very lively and attracted many believers from other places to Penang.
“Due to the pandemic this year, we cannot hold celebrations on such a big scale like before.
“All religious celebrations and activities must be simplified.
“I understand that some temple committees have made the decision to cancel their celebrations and some decided that their ceremonies will not be open to the public, ” she said in a statement recently.
The Nine Emperor Gods Festival will begin tomorrow and end on Oct 25.
The festival is held on the first day of the ninth lunar month and is observed with much reverence by the Taoist community.
Devotees will practise a strict vegetarian diet during the nine-day celebration.
The festival pays homage to the Goddess of the North Star, believed to control the Books of Life and Death.
Devotees believe the gods came through the waterway and processions are usually held from temples to the river or seashore as a symbolic gesture.
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