IMLEK
The Chinese New Year
Tradition in Indonesia

Imlek is a celebration of Chinese New Year. In four seasons countries it is also popular as Spring Festival, to welcome the spring. Since it is based on lunar calendar, the date varies every year. This year we celebrate the Chinese New Year of 2568 on January 28, 2017.

There are twelve Chinese Zodiac: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep/goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. Each of the Chinese Zodiac has five elements: wood, metal, water, fire, and earth. These Chinese Zodiacs and their elements take turns every year, hence, the same combination will only happen every 60 years. This year is the time for Rooster with the element of Fire.

Imlek is the time for family gathering and wishes for a good health and prosperity. The Indonesian Chinese has a tradition to have a family dinner on the new year eve. Some continues the festive by praying in the temple. On the new year day, the younger family member visit their parents and elder to greet them and children usually get hongbao, a red envelope filled with money. It represents the blessings from the elder to the young.

Usually people wear new clothes on the new year day and they prefer red ones. They believe red will keep them away from bad spirits and bad luck. They buy new clothes not only for their children but also for their parents and elders. Hence, nowadays the shopping malls take this opportunity to arrange late night sale or also known as midnight sale.

In addition to these imlek traditions, let’s explore special things that only happens during this festive :)

Specials During Imlek

The special food that only made and sold during Chinese New Year is basket cakes, in Sunda we called it dodol keranjang or dodol China, or Nian Gao in mandarin. We called it basket cakes because we use a bamboo basket as a mold for the dough. The main ingredients of this cake are sticky rice and sugar, but now it has various flavors such as vanilla, chocolate and pandanus (the extract of pandanus leaves provides the green color and smells good). We can eat it as is, but many people prefers to steam it with shredded coconut or fries with beaten egg.

The special performance during Chinese New Year is lion dance and dragon dance. The Chinese believe these animals bring prosperity and push away the bad luck. 

The Dragon is carried by many people, since it has long body. Hence, it usually performs on the street.

Lion dance is more popular, because nowadays almost every mall in Indonesia invites it. The lion is represented by 2 men under one hood. There are several varieties of the dance, they can dance on tables, on poles, they even can do moonwalk and gangnam style!

The most difficult style of lion dance is the pole lion dance. They dance and jump on 21 poles that have different height and range.

At the end of the show, we give hongbao to the lion, as our appreciation. Children love doing it :)

My favorite place to watch pole lion dance performance is at Living World Mall in Alam Sutera, South Tangerang. The group who always performs in this mall is Kong Ha Hong. They won several pole lion dance championships, both national and world championships. Their lions are always expressive and agile. Team Kong Ha Hong’s are also creative. They have an LED lion dance, a very bright one where its body is fully covered with LED. They perform many varieties of pole lion dance stunts, such as a drunken lion dance and the monkey key Sun Go Kong play with the lion dance on top of the poles,  as well as a Gang Nam lion dance. One thing for sure, their lions always come in a pride, they never come alone :)

I have compiled their performances over the years and put some of the best pictures in sliders below. I hope you enjoy watching their performance as much as I do.  :)


Last but not least, I wish you a Happy Chinese New Year that brings good luck, good health and prosperity.

› Festive › Imlek