Portraits of Sugi Trisna family ancestors are seen on a worship table during the Chinese Lunar New Year tradition at South Tangerang, Banten, on Feb 11, 2021. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)
Imlek in the Time of Pandemic
BY :YUDHA BASKORO
FEBRUARY 11, 2021
Tangerang, Banten. The Chinese Lunar New Year celebration has become the most anticipated annual cultural tradition for Indonesian Chinese descent. This has been even more the case since President Megawati Soekarnoputri made it a national holiday in 2003.
However, Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations in 2021 will be very different from previous years. Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas has asked that celebrations of the Year of the Ox be held with online gathering activities instead of events such as the traditional lion dance festival, due to the high number of Covid-19 transmissions in the country. As a result, every temple in the Capital has announced that they will close during New Year's Day.
Even so, it doesn't ease the Sugi Trisna family's enthusiasm to continue to hold the Chinese New Year tradition at their home.
"Due to the pandemic, we will be more flexible and adaptable on this year's Chinese New Year," said Sugi's wife Meta Dewi Sri, 55, at their home in Nusa Loka residential complex, South Tangerang,, on Feb 11, 2021.
Since Thursday morning, Meta has prepared a large table to place family's ancestors' photos. The table is also decorated with typical Chinese ornaments such as red tablecloths, flowers, candles, incense, and some traditional snacks such as kue keranjang, kue mangkok, dodol, and kue lapis, as well as favorite foods of ancestors to honor their spirits.
Every traditional food has a meaning, representing the family's hopes and prayers for the year. Kue keranjang and dodol are a metaphor for a closer relationship between family members due to the cake's sticky texture. As it was expanding during baking process, kue mangkok is believed to be a prayer for all of the family's ongoing endeavor. Kue lapis, with its multiple colorful layers, is an epitome of perpetual fortune in the new year.
Meta said celebrating the Chinese New Year at home brought back an old tradition, restrengthening the ties in the family. She said her family folded Jinzhi, or spirit money, themselves again, instead of buying neatly folded ones from the shop like the previous years.
She said she used this rare opportunity to pass on the knowledge and the care for family traditions to the young generation.
The Sugi Trisna family believes the Chinese New Year tradition must be carried out. They believe that family lineage, the origin of the grandparents, and ancestors, can never be erased from every individual.
"It doesn't matter where we pray, in the temple or at home, pray is a pray. It has exactly the same intention and meaning," Meta said while placing incense near a photo of her late father.