The festive events of the Chinese New Year will continue until the fifteenth day, which is the celebration of Cap Go Meh. Some thought that the event of Cap Go Meh is more lively in many Chinatowns than the Lunar New Year itself, since all people will gather on the street, young women and men meet each other and lanterns decorated the whole place where the celebration will take place.
But what is Cap Go Meh itself, and why is it celebrated? Cap Go Meh is actually a celebration name recognised only by the Chinese living in Indonesia and Malaysia. Cap Go Meh means the Fifteenth Night in the Hokkien dialect, this celebration is better known as the Lantern Festival (Yuan Xiao)in China. The 15th of the Chinese month is due when the full moon shines brightly in the sky. But whatever the name is, Cap Go Meh is celebrated as the official closing of the festive new year and considered as time to asking for blessing so that everything done this year runs successfully.
The way to celebrate Cap Go Meh varies in each place, and Indonesia especially the people with Javanese Chinese background have a unique way to commemorate this day, one of which is to enjoy Cap Go Meh Lontong. While in China, there is a tradition of eating Onde Soup (Tang Yuan) which is a delicacy with shape of a small ball made from glutonous rice flour, cooked with sugar water, enjoyed with the whole family at night.
Cap Go Meh wasn’t allowed to be celebrated in Indonesia for a long time, therefore the Chinese people used the moon-shaped rice cake (Lontong) to replace Tang Yuan. The characteristics of Lontong, which are sticky and round, symbolizes unity and family togetherness. That brings uniqueness of Cap Go Meh celebration in certain parts of Indonesia.
Another uniqueness existing in Indonesia, especially in Singkawang, a city of a thousand temples, is the Tatung carnival. Maybe this show will be a bit of a horror for young children, but it’s very interesting to watch. Tatung is a person who functions as a medium of the Gods. When they are possessed, they will become saints who can do things that are beyond normal human limits. During the Cap Go Meh carnival in Singkawang, they will perform attractions such as piercing their bodies with swords, slicing their tongues and cutting their bodies, eating hot embers, and so on. But do not worry, they are invulnerable and there are no injuries to their bodies. Very interesting,isn’t it?
The carnival rituals in each region in Indonesia may vary, but generally took place during the day. In the morning, the statue of Gods in the temple will be bathed and purified, then the officials will ask permission from the god in order to be carried around for blessing the city. Believe it or not, the statue will be very heavy and cannot be lifted when that particular God doesn’t approve. When it happens, a designated Medium will be possessed by that God and the possessed Medium will ask for a gift or certain request. After the statue is ready to be carried around, the officers will prepare the Barongsai. The order of this group consists of firecrackers carrier, then the Barongsai, and finally the musicians. Lion dance and firecrackers are functioned to eliminate bad reinforcements and scare evil spirits. Finally, the Cap Go Meh carnival can start, which usually taking place in the main roads of the city. The right and left sides of the street were filled with visitors who wanted to see the show and the carnival. In few places, officials will pour visitors with holy water that has been used to bathe the statue of the god with the intention of giving a blessing. There are also those who burn paper dolls, usually in a form of huge dragon-shaped dolls. Their hope is that the entire city will be protected. If there is no festive parade of Cap Go Meh celebration in your city, don’t worry. You can gather with your family at night, enjoying Onde Soup. Onde or the glutinous ball can also be easily purchased in frozen form in many supermarkets as well. Hope you enjoy your time with your family while moongazing.