Life in TransitA Digital Nomad in Asia

Hokkien Chinese New Year

This household had a huge offering to their ancestors during the Hokkien Chinese New Year in Malaysia.

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The sound of fireworks and firecrackers rang across the neighbourhood yet again. Chinese New Year is a two-week long celebration after all.

Yet today, there was a different tone to the celebrations. The fireworks weren’t the normal kinds launched by kids enthralled by pyrotechnics. Families outside their homes lined the usually quiet and deserted streets with altars and lighting “bonfires”.

Today, some of the Chinese celebrated new year all over again: the Hokkien Chinese New Year.

A local, Yeo, took the time to explain the celebration to me.

The Hokkien New Year, which is celebrated on the 9th day of the Chinese New Year, commemorates the survival of the Hokkien people as they ran to evade the Manchus.

Aside from food and incense as offerings on their altars, the Hokkien celebrants have two large shoots of sugarcane. The idea behind this, according to Yeo, is that the Hokkien survived the Manchus by hiding in a sugarcane forest on the 9th day of the Lunar New Year.

The celebration also includes the lighting of firecrackers and fireworks to ward off spirits as well as an offering of paper money to their ancestors.

These days, the celebration isn’t only for Hokkiens, explained Yeo.

“I am Cantonese, but I married a Hokkien so we all celebrate it,” said Yeo.

As the celebration spreads throughout the different Chinese subcultures, it is worthy to note that this day also celebrates the birthday of all Chinese.

So Happy New Year and Happy Birthday!

Tagged: culture, Malaysia
Posted in: Features