A lineup of shops selling Imlek decors on Pancoran Street, Glodok, on January 21, 2022. (JG Photo/Jayanty Nada Shofa)

Jakarta’s Chinatown Busy with Shoppers Prepping for Imlek

BY :JAYANTY NADA SHOFA

JANUARY 26, 2022

Jakarta. From hongbao to nian gao, there is always a long shopping list for the Chinese New Year or Imlek celebrations. And Jakarta’s Chinatown Glodok is a popular destination for Imlek shopping.

Glodok’s Pancoran Street boasts an array of shops selling Imlek decorations. Despite the scorching sun, people enthusiastically went shopping for decors on Pancoran Street on Friday. 

Many customers were looking for red envelopes or hongbao, which they will later stuff with money as gifts.

It is a tradition for married couples to give hongbao to children, parents, and single adults on Imlek. 2022 is the year of the water tiger, so red envelopes with tiger motifs are common this Imlek.

Hong bao red envelopes as seen on Pancoran Street, Glodok, on January 21, 2022. (JG Photo/Jayanty Nada Shofa)
Hongbao or red envelopes as seen on Pancoran Street, Glodok, on January 21, 2022. Many have tiger motifs. (JG Photo/Jayanty Nada Shofa)

Other customers were buying lanterns and door couplets. Many shops even sold red face masks to welcome another mid-pandemic Imlek, which will fall on Feb. 1.

Inaratu was one of the Imlek decor sellers on Pancoran Street, Glodok. Her shop also appeared busy.

“Sales are picking up this year, maybe it’s because we are recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic. [...] People mostly stop by our shop to buy lanterns, stickers, hongbao, among other things,” Inaratu told the Jakarta Globe in Glodok on Friday. 

About fifteen steps away from Inaratu’s shop is another alley filled with Imlek must-haves, including nian gao. Known to Indonesians as kue keranjang (basket cakes), the nian gao represents prosperity. Its sticky texture also symbolizes family togetherness, according to nian gao seller Alim. 

Alim said he had gotten his nian gao from Sukabumi, Tegal, Tangerang, among others.

“Every basket cake has its own fans,” Alim told the Globe, when asked what kind of nian gao was the most popular among his customers. 

According to Alim, this year’s sales are much better compared to two years ago.

“But I can’t say things have returned to normal,” he said.

Nian gao (basket cakes) as seen in Pancoran Street, Glodok, on January 21, 2022. (JG Photo/Jayanty Nada Shofa)
Nian gao (basket cakes) as seen on Pancoran Street, Glodok, on January 21, 2022. (JG Photo/Jayanty Nada Shofa)

Fellow nian gao seller Afo said he was not that optimistic on this year’s sales. Afo’s shop actually specializes in traditional Chinese wedding and engagement gifts. It is only when Imlek is close approaching that Afo is selling nian gao.

“Business is still on the decline. We all know how people only spend just enough during the pandemic. So for instance, people would now only order 3 kg, compared to the usual 5 kg. [...] But there is always a demand for basket cakes [nian gao] during Imlek,” Afo said.

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