Customers shop for Chinese New Year’s decorations at Jakarta’s Chinatown or Glodok on Jan. 17, 2023. With only a few days left until celebrations begin, customers rush to the markets for the Chinese New Year. (JG Photo/Oliver Dixon)

Year of the Rabbit Brings Good Fortune for Glodok Vendors

BY :OLIVER DIXON

JANUARY 20, 2023

Jakarta. Vendors at Jakarta’s Chinatown Glodok are seeing better sales this year, as consumers rush to buy gifts and decorations for Chinese New Year celebrations.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo earlier this year lifted the Covid-19 restrictions. This would mark the first time the Chinese New Year, locally known as Imlek, festivities to take place amid the pandemic without a Covid-19 curb in place. 

Riyadi was one of the street vendors at Jakarta’s Chinatown Glodok. When the Jakarta Globe stopped by Glodok earlier this week, his stall attracted quite a large crowd of people looking for envelopes. 

“Sales have improved compared to last year. Last year, most of my customers were the loyal ones who put in orders online,” Riyadi told the Globe on Tuesday.

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A longstanding tradition on Chinese New Year is for family elders to give red envelopes filled with money to their children and grandchildren as a blessing from the older generations. So it should be no surprise that envelopes were selling like hotcakes in Riyadi’s stall.

“Red envelopes are one of the best sellers, costing between Rp 5,000 to Rp 40,000 [about 33 cents - $2.65],” he said.

Red envelopes featuring rabbits as seen in Glodok on Jan. 17, 2023. (JG Photo/Oliver Dixon)
Red envelopes featuring rabbits as seen in Glodok on Jan. 17, 2023. (JG Photo/Oliver Dixon)

Many of his customers also were after wall decorations and lanterns, the latter of which could cost up to Rp 1.8 million. 

“Last year we were selling a lot of red masks with Chinese characters on them, but this year I did not bother selling them due to restrictions being lifted,” Riyadi said.

Riyadi has been selling decorations for Chinese New Year alongside his family for eight years. He normally sells produce and will help the family sell Chinese New Year decorations when Imlek approaches.

“We have three stores in Glodok and they are all owned by my family,” he said.

Glodok shines red as the markets are lined with red lanterns, wall decorations, and envelopes on Jan. 17, 2023. (JG Photo/Oliver Dixon)
Glodok shines red as the markets are lined with red lanterns, wall decorations, and envelopes on Jan. 17, 2023. (JG Photo/Oliver Dixon)

One of the main traditions for Indonesians celebrating Chinese New Year is having a large family dinner on the eve of the new year. Young and old family members would exchange gifts, which symbolize wishes for good health and fortune while acting as a blessing between generations. 

With less than a week until the festivities begin, the market was bustling with customers preparing for their family gatherings. One of these customers was Farah.

“We are staying in, but also going to visit other family members, but I will cook this year starting Saturday,” Farah said when asked by the Globe about her plans for this year’s Imlek.

“Today, I bought mostly snacks for the guests who come to our house to enjoy.”

However, the threat of Covid-19 has not completely disappeared from the public mind, and celebrants such as Farah are still being cautious about meeting family members over the holiday.

“Nowadays, when I go to my grandma’s house, I get an antigen test to make sure I am not a carrier,” she said.

Aside from family gatherings, celebrants will often go to watch dragon and lion dances being performed in the streets and malls. They also often go to pray at temples.

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