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Lanterns light up Chinese New Year festivities in Indonesia
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11:31, February 07, 2008

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As Chinese New Year falls on Feb. 7,many of the residents in Jakarta, capital of Indonesia, regardless of their ethnicity, are busy shopping and their the most favorite items are Chinese New Year's decorations in the city's Chinatown, or known as Glodok in West Jakarta.

This is part of the Chinese New Year festivities in recent years. The festivities have been greeted with a great deal of hype in the capital city as well as other cities in the country.

"I love buying Chinese lanterns because I feel serene when I look at them," the Jakarta Post daily on Wednesday quoted Rini, a housewife from Cibubur in East Jakarta as saying.

Rini, who was shopping in Glodok with her daughter, said she began to collect Chinese decorations after a recent visit to Singapore. Red lanterns were her favorite Chinese ornament, she added.

During the New Order era, the celebration of Chinese New Year in public spaces was not permitted. Chinese-Indonesian communities across the archipelago found it difficult to celebrate the event as there was also no public holiday set aside.

Prominent Muslim cleric Abdurahman Wahid overturned several discriminatory laws while serving as the country's president between 1999 and 2001, paving the way for Chinese New Year to be celebrated more openly.

However, Chinese New Year was not declared an official national holiday until 2002 under the presidency of Megawati Soekarnoputri.

Elis Susana owns a shop in the Glodok area. She said Chinese lanterns were the most popular ornament in the weeks leading up to Chinese New Year.

"Lampions are a must-have Chinese New Year decoration at home and at the office," she said.

Elis stocks both round and square red lanterns in her shop, selling them for between 50,000 rupiah (5.43 U.S. dollars) and 600,000 rupiah (60.2 U.S. dollars). She also stocks small sets of lanterns with Chinese zodiac signs painted on them.

Elis said pink plum blossom (Mei Hua) trees were the second most popular item after lampion in the weeks leading up to Chinese New Year. She said most customers preferred to buy plastic Mei Huatrees, which cost between 125,000 rupiah (13.6 U.S. dollars) and 1.5 million rupiah (163 U.S. dollars) depending on size.

However, she said some customers purchased real Mei Hua cuttings imported from China, which sell for 100,000 rupiah (10.87U.S. dollars) per bunch.

"I would like to grow them in my own garden. I would like to see the buds blossom on New Year's Day," said one customer after buying a bunch of the cuttings.

Elis' husband Murtalim said Mei Hua trees usually grew in cool subtropical weather.

"But with a bit of luck, they might also grow here," he laughed. Elis began selling Chinese New Year ornaments in 2000. Her shop also stocks a range of other ornaments.

Most Chinese New Year decorations express a person's wishes for prosperity, good health and happiness.

Min Noi from Pondok Kelapa in East Jakarta said she purchased Chinese New Year ornaments to make her grandchildren happy.

"All I know is each ornament symbolizes good things. Just look at the red and gold colors on the ornaments. They create a positive spirit to welcome Chinese New year," she said.

Another group of women said they were shopping for Chinese New Year ornaments to decorate their office.

"Most of our company's clients are Chinese-Indonesian. Because Chinese New Year is just around the corner, we want them to feel at home when they visit our office," one of the women said.

Source: Xinhua

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