Tuesday, is Chinese New Year, a traditional festival that has been celebrated by ethnic Chinese people around the world for thousands of years to honor deities as well as ancestors. There are around 2.8 million Indonesians of Chinese descent and many of them celebrate Imlek.
In Indonesia, people have only been able to openly celebrate Chinese New Year since 2002, after then-president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid issued Presidential Decree No. 19/2002, which declared the festival a national holiday.
Previously, under Soeharto’s New Order regime, Chinese New Year could not be celebrated openly. The New Order regime had a staunch anticommunist stance and anything that had to do with China and its culture was considered dangerous to the nationhood.
Nowadays, Indonesians of Chinese descent are able to flock to temples across the country to pray for good fortune, happiness, wealth and longevity for them and their families. Pig decorations are seen in many places to usher in the Year of the Pig, and barongsai (lion and dragon dance) shows are performed to entertain people of all backgrounds.