Indonesia is heavily populated with Chinese Indonesians (9 million), and with such a large number of them, the Chinese New Year is a much celebrated event.
Yesterday was the Chinese New Year, and to celebrate it we visited different Chinese families as they followed their Buddhist / Confucius, etc., traditions of welcoming guests into their homes and serving them a wide assortment of foods. While visiting, it was also a great opportunity to learn of some of their beliefs, and having made notes, we included them below.
- You cannot cry on this day or you will encounter many things throughout the coming year that will bring great sadness and pain. Children and babies are exempt from this taboo.
- Before Imlek you must pay off your debts. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself experiencing various sorts of things that will bring indebtedness during the coming year.
- If you lend money on Imlek, you will find that during the coming year you will be inundated by people wanting to borrow money from you.
- You cannot use cuss words or curse anybody on this day, nor can you speak of death. Doing so will bring those same things back into your life.
- You cannot wash your hair on Imlek. Doing so will “wash out” all fortune and blessing during the coming year.
- It is best to wear red colorful clothing, which is a reflection of happiness. This will bring happiness to the individual during the coming year.
- You cannot say, “Happy New Year” in your bed room. By doing so you will lose any happiness during the coming year.
- You must store knives and scissors in a special place so they won’t be held or seen by anybody in your family. If they are seen or held, the person will be separated from fortune during the coming year.
- You cannot sweep or cook on Imlek, because doing so will sweep out all fortune and sustenance for the coming year.
Some Cannot Celebrate Imlek
People who have had a close family member recently pass away cannot celebrate Imlek. The length of time a family is to mourn for a departed family member must be agreed upon by the members of that family. Previously the length of time for mourning was three years. Now the duration of mourning varies from one month to three years.
Taboo for People in Mourning
If an individual is still mourning the death of a family member, whether that time of mourning is three years or 1 month, they may not celebrate Imlek during that time period. The Chinese people who follow these traditions also have several other restrictions they must follow, such as:
- In businesses, you should not visit people or be visited by people who are wearing clothing that indicates they are in mourning.
- If a person is in mourning, they should not wear cheerful celebratory colors. This includes wearing red on the day of Imlek.
- If a person in mourning makes the famous desert “kue cang,” and they tie up the package, it will be as if they are tying the feet of the spirits of their ancestors. The same can be said with the pressure needed to make the desert “kue onde.” Pressure applied while making this dessert will be the same as applying pressure to the spirits of ancestors.