So far Chinese New Year has only ever been something that kept my Vietnamese friend Jennie from hanging out or talking to me on the phone. Now that I am in Jakarta, it feels like Christmas time with all the decorations and celebrations! Despite the animosity and tensions between “native” Indonesians and Chinese-Indonesians, Chinese New Year is now considered a national holiday and I am reaping the benefits. The malls here in Jakarta are filled with concerts, performances, and barongsai dragon dances. Everywhere we turn, our eyes are met with auspicious red and gold decorations, along with hong bao draped from every possible surface.
Rio and I went on the first day of our three day weekend to the elite Grand Indonesia shopping mall for a free pole and acrobatics performance. The place was packed, and the show was so good we went twice! The audience was filled both times with hundreds of kids and adults alike, and I thought about how this was such a good marketing ploy to bring more shoppers in. The mall was also selling stuffed monkeys for charity, in honor of the year of the Fire Monkey. We have some video of the performance at the end of this post.
The second day my husband and I met up with some friends at Taman Anggrek, another upscale mall. Inside we found the main atrium flooded with pop up vendors. The shops were housed in wooden versions of gift boxes, and a beautiful stage that looked like a blooming flower. We were checking out the shops when stereos blasted with an upbeat Chinese melody, and a ton of kids came out dressed like versions of the Chinese astrology. Naturally, I pulled out my camera to capture some of the cuteness. A shy girl playing the goat was my favorite though, her eyes said both Dear god help me and Weee isn’t this fun!
By now I had begun to realize there were probably other performances too. It seems odd to lure out families into malls during the day of a National Holiday but after a quick search I found our local mall, Senayan City, was promising a barongsai dance and parade. While we enjoyed the performances, I’d started to realize that there were monkeys EVERYWHERE throughout the mall. Heck, even Krispy Kreme was cashing in on the event!
Here’s a video of the performances we saw during our weekend.
There aren’t just more dragon dances at the malls these days. Increased security and more bag searches than I can count have been conducted at every mall. One officer even opened up the door to our taxi. These security routines are typically performed with a blasé attitude, but this weekend you could feel tension in the air. Things should loosen up, while many of these Chinese New Year performances will continue for a few more weeks into February. In either case, Gong Xi Fa Cai! (Happy New year in Mandarin) May this new lunar year bring much prosperity and joy to your life!