Hokkien New Year
The story is that long ago, during the Ming Dynasty, the ancestors of the Hokkien were hiding from bandits in the sugarcane fields during Chinese New Year. They prayed to the Jade Emperor, a diety also known as the King of Heaven. For eight days the intruders searched for them and could not find them, eventually giving up. On the ninth day, the Hokkien came out of hiding and celebrated, praising the Jade Emperor for protecting them. They celebrated the Chinese New Year 8 days late.
Here in Penang, the Chinese New Year celebration isn’t one day. It lasts 15 days. And the peak of it is today, the ninth day, Hokkien New Year. The fireworks displays for this particular night outshadow (and out deafen) the ones from 8 nights ago.
Outside many of the temples, and some Buddhist homes are these massive incense sticks that burn for hours. These are in honor of the Jade Emperor who protected them in the past. Some also call this day the birthday of the Jade Emperor.
At the markets you can find some specialty foods and knick knacks like thni kuih (sweet cakes), ang koo (red tortoise buns), mee koo (red-coloured buns), huat kuih (prosperity cakes) and bright pink miniature pagodas.
Sugarcane is everywhere for sale. I’m told that in the past Perak Road was lined with sugarcane stalks.