2011 Chinese New Year in Medan, North Sumatra

Chinese New Year – often called Chinese Lunar New Year although it actually is lunisolar – is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It is an all East and South-East-Asia celebration and the correct naming is hence “Asian New Year”. In China it is known as “Spring Festival”, the literal translation of the Chinese name Pinyin (Chūn Jié), owing to the difference between Western and traditional Chinese methods for computing the seasons. It marks the end of the winter season, analogous to the Western carnival. The festival begins on the first day of the first month (Chinese: pinyin: Zhēng Yuè) in the traditional Chinese calendar and ends with Lantern Festival which is on the 15th day. Chinese New Year’s Eve, a day where Chinese families gather for their annual reunion dinner, is known as Chú Xī or “Eve of the Passing Year”.

In this 2011 Chinese New Year, me and several friends were came to Maha Vihara Maitreya and Setia Budi Temple – which both this Budhist temple were located in Medan, North Sumatra. Around 9.30 pm (Wednesday, February 2, 2010) in local time we arrived to Maha Vihara Maitreya, the biggest Budhist temple here in Medan. Right in the soccer field in front of the temple, there were so many people – mostly Chinese, gathered to released so many lantern up to the sky. According to one of the Chinese that i had met, this event held to send their wishes to God in heaven that written in the lantern itself. Meanwhile, in the front yard of the temple, people were gathered to watch the fireworks and Lion Barongsai performance.

After spend some time in Maha Vihara Maitreya, around 1.15 am, we moved to Setia Budi Temple which located around 30 minutes away – by car. Inside the temple, there were so many Buddhist that were came to pray right in this Chinese New Year’s eve mostly for healthiness and wealthness. Smoke form Hio was fullilled the entire temple. Hio itself is shaped of incense sticks and used to worship or pray to the Lord God of Heaven and Earth that the Buddhist worship. How to use the burned like a lit cigarette. Burning incense will remove the smell fragrant and discharged into ash.

Chinese New Year is the longest and most important festivity in the Chinese Lunisolar Calendar. The origin of Chinese New Year is itself centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions. Ancient Chinese New Year is a reflection on how the people behaved and what they believed in the most.

Within China, regional customs and traditions concerning the celebration of the Chinese new year vary widely. People will pour out their money to buy presents, decoration, material, food, and clothing. It is also the tradition that every family thoroughly cleans the house to sweep away any ill-fortune in hopes to make way for good incoming luck. Windows and doors will be decorated with red colour paper-cuts and couplets with popular themes of “happiness”, “wealth”, and “longevity”. On the Eve of Chinese New Year, supper is a feast with families. Food will include such items as pigs, ducks, chicken and sweet delicacies. The family will end the night with firecrackers. Early the next morning, children will greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year, and receive money in red paper envelopes. The Chinese New Year tradition is to reconcile, forget all grudges and sincerely wish peace and happiness for everyone.

According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast called the Nian (Chinese: 年; pinyin: nián). Nian would come on the first day of New Year to devour livestock, crops, and even villagers, especially children. To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was believed that after the Nian ate the food they prepared, it wouldn’t attack any more people. One time, people saw that the Nian was scared away by a little child wearing red. The villagers then understood that the Nian was afraid of the colour red. Hence, every time when the New Year was about to come, the villagers would hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nian. From then on, Nian never came to the village again. The Nian was eventually captured by Hongjun Laozu, an ancient Taoist monk. The Nian became Hongjun Laozu’s mount.

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Copyright © 2011 Novri Wahyu Perdana. All rights reserved.
All images were taken by using Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EOS 50D, Canon EF 17-40mm F/4L USM, and Canon EF 70-300mm F/4-5.6 IS USM.

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6 responses to “2011 Chinese New Year in Medan, North Sumatra

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