If you plan to be in Bali in February, your timing is perfect! Because of the Chinese New Year or Hari Raya Imlek as they call it in Indonesia.
Lunar New Year is an important Chinese festival celebrated at the turn of the Chinese lunisolar calendar. It arranges the year, month and day number upon the astronomical date. The time for Chinese New Year changes each year but it always falls between January 21 and February 20, determined by the Chinese lunar calendar. This year it is on 8th of February.
Traditionally 12 zodiac animals were used to date the years. The Chinese zodiac is a repeating cycle of 12 years, with each year being represented by an animal and its reputed attributes. For example, 2016 in Chinese lunar calendar is a year of the Monkey. Count backwards and find another year of the Monkey—2004, 1992, 1980, 1968, 1956, 1944, and so on.
People born in a certain animal year are believed to have traits and attributes of that animal, along with its lucky numbers, days, colors, etc. For those who are born in a year of the Monkey are witty, intelligent, and have a magnetic personality. The lucky numbers of “Monkeys” are 4 and 9, the days are 14th and 28th of any Chinese lunar calendar month and colors white, blue and gold.
As well as having a Chinese zodiac sign, according to Chinese element theory, each year is associated with one of five elements: Gold (Metal), Wood, Water, Fire or Earth, which means that a Wood Monkey comes once in a 60-year cycle. So there are five types of Monkeys, each with different characteristics. This year it is a year of Fire Monkey, and they are ambitious and adventurous, but irritable—the horoscope says.
Roughly about 5 percent of Indonesian citizens are of Chinese descent and the Lunar New Year is one of the most celebrated events in the country. Colorful masks, decorations and lights mark one of the longest festivals in Chinese calendar; tradition starting with honoring the gods and ancestors. The best way to start a New Year is to head to some of the Buddhist temples here in Bali. There is a Chinese temple Vihara Dharmayana in Kuta where you will get to see Barongsai dance, prayers, Dragon dance and fireworks—an absolute must see part of the celebrations.
If you are going to the old town of Singaraja, you will find a magnificent Chinese temple—or klenteng as the local people call it—the Ling Gwan Kiong. Well worth visiting for the Chinese New Year. But maybe the best place to experience the festival is Buddhist monastery Brahma Vihara in Tegehe Village, 22 kilometers from Singaraja and 11 kilometers from tourist spot Lovina. The temple scenery is wonderful, perched on a slope of a hill and majestically overlooking a sea with the lush green hill as a background.
But if you just want to feast with your family and loved ones, try to book dinner in one of the many restaurants on the island. Grand Nikko Bali prepared something special for two days of celebrations, 7th and 8th of February. It starts with tea by the beach. You will be experiencing three-tier platters filled with sweet and savory items, along with freshly baked pastries and tropical fruits along with the sea breeze. It continues with barbecue buffet serving Char Sui Pork Ribs, Five Spice Duck Skewers and assorted seafood items. There will also be a carving station, hot dish station and a separate area of sweet treats.
To bring good fortune for the year ahead, you can also join in the Chinese custom of tossing a plate of Yu Sheng or prosperity salad at Benkay Restaurant. During this traditional celebration, everyone must gather around the table and throw shredded bits of raw fish and vegetables into the air while exclaiming auspicious wishes.
As eating dumplings on New Year’s Day is also thought to bring luck, Benkay will also feature Japanese Gyoza with homemade sauce. You can also toast to a New Year in St. Regis. With an auspicious six-course degustation menu showcasing Canadian lobster, Hokkaido scallops, Bak Kut Teh, Soon Hock fish…
After all that, you can continue New Year with some unique Chinese New Year spa. In Nusa Dua Boutique Spa Sekar Jagat they offer special Ayurveda packages for two.
So ‘Bainian’ or happy New Year everyone!