The Jade Emperor God’s Birthday, February 4th 2017

The 9th day of Chinese New Year, is also known the Jade Emperor God’s birthday, and is celebrated the night before on a grand scale by the Hokkien clan to commemorate their forefathers escape from ancient China and as the first day of Hokkien New Year. Centred around Chew Jetty on Weld Quay, it is one of the most colourful and exuberant of Penang’s numerous festival celebrations.

An excellent account of the celebrations last year can be found in the Oh My Expat Life blog here.

With permission we are republishing some of Cimeron’s comments and photos here, and we strongly recommend you to read her original article also to get the full flavour.

“The action starts around dark. By the time I get there at 8, performances are in full swing on the big stage at Chew Jetty. Drummers beat huge kettle-drums, dancers in traditional dress twirl, jugglers juggle, lights flash, and fireworks boom in the background.

Making my way toward the glowing red lanterns decorating the Taoist shrine opposite the stage, several costumed people happily pose for photos with devotees and curious visitors alike. I have no idea what the heck it’s all about. My friend Jenny, who was born and raised here, says they’re like ancient Asian Marvel heroes. (I’m fairly sure she’s messing with me, but hey, she’s Hokkien, so I have no choice but to trust her expertise on the subject).

At the shrine, the fragrant, lightly-perfumed scent of thousands of joss sticks wafts over the crowd. Devotees pray and lay out their offerings of bread loaves shaped like adorable little piggies.

Heading out into the street, which is thankfully blocked off, thousands of people whip out their selfie sticks to watch lion dancers on stilts through their phone screens. What a beautiful spectacle! (Not the glittering sea of glowing phones, but the dancing, jumping lions). Two guys are in each costume – one at the head, one at the tail. In perfectly choreographed moves, they jump and dance from one elevated pole to another, making their lions shake and roar, play together and even chase each other. All the while, fireworks blossom behind them in flashing, crackling burst of red, white and yellow.

Then the feasting begins! Everyone is welcome to share the delicacies on the offering table. And of course, the ever-present boom and flash of fireworks overhead accompanies the feast. What a unique festival! It’s definitely a great one to experience in person.”

Venue: Chew Jetty, George Town, 9pm until midnight.

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