‘Decent’ year predicted for Penang

Wisdom from beyond: Devotees seen thronging the Hai Choo Soo Temple in Tanjung Tokong, Penang to observe the Chneah Hoay ceremony. The ceremonial urn is lit three times. — LIM BENG TATT/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: The Year of the Water Rabbit is expected to be the year of consolidation for Penang’s economy.

This forecast was made during the annual Chneah Hoay (flame-watching) ceremony at the Hai Choo Soo Temple in Tanjung Tokong.

The ritual began at around 11.35pm after tides rose to a certain level at the bay fronting the temple on Saturday.

The lights were then switched off while oil lamps and candles were snuffed out.

The clanging of cymbals followed and embers in the deity Tua Pek Kong’s urn were kindled, with the first flame ignited at 11.59pm and described as “fair”.

The second and third flames ignited at 12am and 12.02am respectively. Both were classed as ‘average’, according to Poh Hock Seah Temple committee members.

“However, the third flame was stronger than the second. This indicates that the economy will pick up towards the end of the year.

“The overall outlook is fair and stable,” honorary secretary Lim Hooi Kooi told a press conference after the event.

Each flame represents a four-month cycle in the lunar calendar, which roughly corresponds to the period of February to May, June to September and October to January in the Gregorian calendar.

This divination of the state’s economic prospects is based on the stability, brightness and strength of the flames.

The Chneah Hoay is said to have been held annually for over 200 years. It was cancelled for the first time in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and movement control order.

In 2022, the committee decided not to hold it for a second year running due to crowd control concerns.

This year’s event thus marked a resumption and devotees turned up in droves to offer prayers.

Throughout the night, many let off firecrackers and fireworks while others lit giant joss sticks embellished with twinkling LEDs.

Before the Chneah Hoay ceremony each year, the statue of Tua Pek Kong is brought from the Poh Hock Seah Temple in Armenian Street to the Hai Choo Soo Temple.

The following day, it makes the return journey. And once every 12 years in the Year of the Tiger, this will be marked with a grand procession. The last was in 2010.

Lim also announced that the grand procession will be held on Chap Goh Meh in 2024, which is the Year of the Dragon.

“After consulting Tua Pek Kong, we’ve decided to hold it next year to replace the one we were supposed to have in 2022 but weren’t able to due to the pandemic,” he added.

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