On the 15th day of the Chinese New Year, the city of Singkawang in West Kalimantan will come alive with sparkling festivities in connection with the Cap Go Meh celebration which this year falls on 24 February.
Cap Go Meh in Singkawang attracts thousands of visitors not only from Indonesia but also from the ASEAN region and China, so do book early for your accommodation. (For where to stay check our links to destinations on Singkawang and Pontianak)
Cap Go Meh is a special day for the Chinese in Singkawang as well as in other major cities across the Indonesian archipelago. Literally translated Cap in Mandarin means ten, Go means five, and Meh means night, therefore, the 15th night in the Chinese calendar.
During Cap Goh Meh, the Chinese here believe that Singkawang will be the central gathering place of the gods, whereas Chinese New Year (known as Imlek) is the time to devoutly thank God and pray for a better year.
Singkawang during Cap Go Meh celebrations is jam-packed with people when the city reverberates with the drum beats and cymbals of lion dances, dragon dances, choi lam shin, when everyone awaits its highlight the parade of Tatung spiritual mediums
Intended to repel misfortune for the entire year, Tatungs are the principle medium of the Cap Go Meh ritual here to ward off evil spirits, and cleanse the town and temples from evil and bad luck. During the Tatung rituals, participants enter into a trance and perform many unbelievable actions, such as stepping on a sword, or piercing steel wires or nails into their cheeks or through their tongues. It is quite incredible to see that despite such torture, the Tatungs remain completely unscathed. Those who participate in this one-of-a-kind ritual are not only men, but also women and even children.
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