Chinese New Year, a path of social cohesion – Indonesia Expat
It wasn’t until 2014 that I really understood what Chinese New Year was like until a Chinese-Indonesian friend of mine invited me to join in and take a look at the celebration in Padang.
While visiting her, I saw that the Chinese New Year celebration is not much different from the way the Eid Fitr holiday is celebrated. It is marked by New Year visits to relatives, relatives and friends. Everyone is wearing new clothes to signify a new year and most of them in different shades of red. For the Chinese, red is the emblem of joy and symbolizes virtue, truth and sincerity.
The Chinese New Year started with the reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve. It is a time when all family members go home to celebrate the New Year. What I find interesting in this New Year’s Eve celebration Lunar year, especially in Padang, is that it is a public holiday. Even the municipality and the people of Padang appreciated and met their previous curiosity about this event. Chinese-Indonesians no longer celebrated their New Year out of public view and behind closed doors.
People will freely see, for example, that the lion dance troupe went to every residential area and everyone followed until they went to every house in that area. I remember I saw many people hanging ang pao on the second floor house and excitedly watching the lion climb up to take the ang pao – the red packet as a gift from the elder to the young.
To a serious degree, such a party was really a down-to-earth mix between Chinese-Indonesians and other ethnic groups of this archipelago. He represented the cultural revival of minorities.
More and more Chinese-Indonesians call themselves frankly “Tionghoa” people despite being from various tribes such as Hokkien, Hokchia, Teochew, Hakka (Ge), Kanton or Mandarin. This awareness grows stronger as they call themselves the Tri Dharma people (specifically Confucian) and change their religion in their identity cards to Confucian.
All Chinese-related items are common despite the sporadic appearance of Chinese characters, unlike Malaysia and Singapore. What is happening with the Chinese-Indonesians is quite similar to the Cornish ethnic uprising in South West England. The Cornish have explored all avenues to restore the Cornish language which has been missing for two centuries. They succeeded as the Cornish language was eventually recognized as one of the local languages of the UK.
The revitalization of Chinese culture in Indonesia is different from what happened in Malaysia due to divided socio-political circumstances and various Indonesian identities encountered by Chinese-Indonesians. But one for sure, they can be much more nationalistic than native people. That many of them still maintain an affinity with China has more to do with their respect for their cultural roots than anything else. However, they have more in common with most of us here than with their ancestors in mainland China.
In my college and the schools in my city, I admit how Chinese-Indonesian students interact with native students and greet each other without disdain. The race-based friendship is no longer evident, with Padangnese becoming their daily language instead of the Indonesian language. It is to some extent that the use of the local language in daily conversation helps to make ethnic conflicts quite easily summed up. The cultural revival of minorities is therefore not a threat to the unity of the country provided that the genuine commitment of diversities is applied within the limits of civility.
We hope the Chinese New Year the celebration is not just an excuse to shop or travel, but a time for families across this nation to come together to rekindle and strengthen their special bonds.
It’s a good time for Chinese-Indonesians to treat each other and share so much good fellowship with so many people. Allowing Chinese Indonesians to openly celebrate their New Year is a path to social cohesion in the country’s unwavering commitment to pluralism and tolerance.
Chinese New Year traditions vary greatly from family to family. While some are very strict, others are more relaxed. But the Chinese New Year is also the ideal time to organize open days. Friends and family will come to the house, greet each other “Gong Xi Fa Cai“ as a way to foster closer bonds with each other and ensure the rest of the year is filled with strong friendships, good laughs and happiness. Many hostels also invite their non-Chinese friends and colleagues, opting for halal catering services to make their visitors feel comfortable.
We must remember that regardless of our lineage, we are all Indonesians and we share a common future. We all have a stake in ensuring that the nation continues to prosper to ensure a better future for our children.
We extend our best wishes to Chinese-Indonesians celebrating their New Year. Gong Xi Fa Cai (wishing you prosperity), Sen Ti An Kang (wishing you good health), Ma Jing Shen (wishing you good spirits and good health), and Wan Shi Ru Yi (May your wishes come true).
The author is a lecturer at the Faculty of Human Sciences of Andalas University in Padang