|The Jade Emperor's altar at home.|
Today, the 9th day of the lunar calendar is Jade Emperor’s Birthday as well as the universally self-proclaimed “Hokkien New Year”. The Hokkiens or people from Fujian Province in China regard today as the most important date of the year and the prayer to the Jade Emperor, pronounced as Ti Kong in Hokkien is the highlight of the day.
There are many versions of history that points to today being regarded as the Hokkien New Year and why grand prayers to Jade Emperor must be conducted. There are also many set of rules and regulations that dictate how the prayers should be conducted; an example being the compulsory pair of sugar cane and sweet pagodas (ngor siew). Being no expert myself, it is best to leave the narration of history to the experts.
My family do not celebrate the Jade Emperor Birthday this year and we will not be celebrating till 2018 to observe the 3 years mourning after daddy’s passing. However, when the clock struck at 12 am, I lighted nine joss sticks and prayed at the Jade Emperor altar at home. I pray to Jade Emperor to bless Malaysia with prosperity and peace, and to continue his wonderful blessings to myself and my family members.
Thankfully, the colder temperature in Malaysia and political fatigue have also cooled down political sentiments on Jade Emperor’s birthday. In 2013, the use of social media to pray to Jade Emperor for Barisan Nasional (BN) to lose in GE13 was rampant. That year too, I saw Kong Ming lanterns written with anti BN messages flying around my neighbourhood. I do not see any Kong Ming lantern this year and if I do, I muse if I will see “2.6 billion” being written somewhere but the use of social media to convey political message to Jade Emperor is still popular.
Nevertheless, it is very shallow minded to politicalise religious celebration and places of worship. Lastly, “It is not your father’s Jade Emperor”, to borrow the famous “not your father’s land”, popularised thanks to another lousy attempt to politicalised Jade Emperor’s birthday.