An altar at home.
Today, the 9th day of the first moon of the lunar calendar is the birthday of the Jade Emperor. Each year without miss, his birthday is celebrated by the Hokkien （福建） diaspora worldwide in full ceremony that started at 12 midnight. This day is also called the “Hokkien Chinese New Year” but as time passed, other some minorities from other dialect groups do join this celebration for they do not want the miss out the blessings of the Jade Emperor. In some household, it is also a night to hold gathering and feast after the praying session was over.
It is said that the Hokkiens were protected by the Jade Emperor for nine days from prosecution during the Song Dynasty by the officials by hiding at a sugar cane plantation. Finally, on the day of the birthday of the Jade Emperor, they emerged unharmed. As a mark to offer their gratitude to the Jade Emperor, his birthday was made a top priority among the Hokkiens and as they had not had celebrated their Chinese New Year on the first day of the lunar calendar, that day is also being celebrated as Hokkien New Year.
Every Hokkien family will set up an altar in front of their house with offerings that range from everything edible that human can think of and a pair sugar cane stalks to the Jade Emperor is a must. The finale of the event is usually the burning of the “house” for the Jade Emperor alongside his full ceremonial robes and thousands of pieces of joss papers folded to resemble gold ingots.
On this day as well, no expenses were spared when it comes to lighting off firecrackers and fireworks that if all were lighted at the same time, it can cause a seismic change on earth’s alignment. On Facebook, friends were all commenting that their neighborhoods resembled warzones. The amounts of fireworks lighted were definitely much more than previous years and friends agreed. I was wondering aloud, did I miss out any news that fireworks are legal again in Malaysia?
Then someone who is usually apolitical next to me said: “At the market, people sell fireworks openly. This year 纳吉 ( Ah Jib Kor) is desperate the Chinese votes, so he will ask the police to close one eye and let the Chinese bomb the whole town even if they want.” Another person added: “The Chinese community is trying out which is the best fireworks that we will use when the fat lady ran out hurriedly from Seri Perdana with her Hermes handbags stuffed with jewelries”. A third person joined in: “These explosives cannot match the C4 but our votes will definitely blast “fat rose mama” from Malaysia during the coming general elections, Jade Emperor will make our come true.”
Not too long later, a big Kong Ming lantern flew past me with big character written in Chinese saying "Ti Kong, please help us Malaysians to successfully change from BN to PR government". I was astonished, again, is Kong Ming lantern legal in Malaysia? I thought it was banned exactly ten years ago when planes can’t land and take off at Penang International Airport due to thousands of Kong Ming lanterns flying around Penang’s skyline. But the point is, since when Kong Ming lantern is now part of something people use to convey messages to Jade Emperor? Not to mention, there are scores of Facebook messages and tweets from friends writing that they pray that the Jade Emperor bless their respective political parties and help it win in the next general elections.
A Kong Ming lantern on air.
Finally, as the day is also considered a lucky day for four digit number punters, my mom joined scores of people at the counters of Magnum, Da Ma Cai and Sports Toto to buy her lucky numbers. While waiting for their turn, a lady next to my mom remarked: “The jackpot was well over 20 million ringgit yesterday but now it is only left 800 thousands, I think the 20 million was taken by the fat lady to buy clothes to wear during election campaign.” What a day and year to come, o dear Jade Emperor!
Encore after encore to the lighting up of fireworks.