Celebratory feast fit for an emperor

Family affair: Chew (left) and his relatives preparing offerings for the Jade Emperor in George Town. — CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Thousands of Hokkien Taoists paid homage to the Jade Emperor at Chew Jetty here during what is considered the Hokkien New Year.

Yesterday, thousands brought offerings such as rice wine, ang koo (bean paste cake), mee koo (red tortoise bun), huat kuih (prosperity cake), roast meat and fruits, all placed on an altar more than 30m long at the entrance to the jetty for a mass Thnee Kong Seh (Jade Emperor’s Birthday) celebration.

Residents started their preparations as early as 4pm for the celebration, which began at midnight.

Among them were retiree Chew How Aun and his family, who were seen arranging fruits to be offered to the Jade Emperor.

“It is a mini reunion for my family. My sibling, children and grandchildren will come back for a reunion dinner before we start the prayer ceremony, ” said Chew, 66.

“This year, more than 20 family members will be wearing customised red shirts for a family portrait.

“We offer fruits, roast chicken, pork and eggs to the Jade Emperor in the hope of having a prosperous year ahead, ” he added.

Chew said the Hokkien community believed that the ninth day of the lunar calendar was the first day of the Chinese New Year.

An 81-year-old woman, who wished to be known as Ah Lian, said she started preparing a week ago.

“I have been observing the Bai Tian Gong (prayer ceremony) for more than 70 years, ” she said.

“This year, we will be offering a boat-shaped thnee kong poh (offerings folded in ‘gold’ paper) in the hope that our future will be yi fan feng shun (smooth sailing).”

Chew Jetty Association chairman Chew Choon Seng said this was the 113th year that Chew Jetty was organising the celebration.

“To cater for the large crowd, we set up the stage on the main road. It took us around two months to plan for the event, ” he said.

Bai Tian Gong is the prayer to give thanks to the Jade Emperor,

the divinity that rescued the ancestors of Hokkiens from an invading army.

Legend has it that Hokkiens from Fujian province in China survived persecution by hiding in a sugarcane plantation on Chinese New Year Day for nine consecutive days.

Hokkiens have since then celebrated Chinese New Year on a grander scale on the ninth day of the Lunar New Year.

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