Part I

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Thursday, 17 August 2017

As Indonesia counts a large population of those with Chinese descent, most of whom have lived here for generations, Chinese New Year - here known as Imlek - is celebrated with lots of fanfare in many townships across the archipelago. Chinese New Year has also been declared a national holiday, which this year falls on 19 February 2015. While celebrations continue for 15 days culminating on 5 March , known as Cap Go Meh.

On New Year's eve, Chinese families whose members may be living far apart, make it point to gather at New Year's eve family dinner. The next morning they will all go to the temple to pray and burn incense and joss sticks. Preparing for this auspicious occasion, temples have been spruced up and decorated with red lanterns and huge red candles. During the two weeks celebrations, groups of lion dancers prance around the city accompanied by loud drums and cymbals. In response, people give red packets of money or ang pao in its mouth, to receive good luck from the lions. Meanwhile at parades, athletic dancers carry colorful "dragons" zig-zaging along the streets that are crowded with onlookers.

In the city of Semarang, capital of the province of Central Java,- where Chinese Imperial Emissary Admiral Zheng He (here better known as Cheng Ho ) first set foot on Java, - its Chinatown known as Pasar Semawis is crowded when the annual Pasar Imlek or Chinese New Year market is held here from 4-16 February selling decorations, special New Year clothes, knick-knacks and foodstuff for families to prepare for the big day. Then the market is transformed into a festive arena where open air stages are set for performances along Gang Pinggir and Srawung, held from 14-17 February. Here the public can enjoy typical Chinese dances, music and cultural performances like the Wayang Potehi, Gambang Semarang, Twa Kok Djwee, barongsai, toya games and even Wushu.

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