After a week’s break, Festival Friday is back with yet more colourful revelry. We continue our Penang series with a photo story of Chinese New Year in Penang, with celebrations around the streets of Georgetown.
Penang’s charm comes from the diversity of people and cultures that over the centuries have called this place home. Walking around Georgetown, the scent of incense wafting from Taoist temples mingles with the spices of Little India; the domes of Malay mosques sit side by side Southern Indian temple roofs.
A large percentage of Penangites are of Chinese descent; it comes with no surprise that one of the main festival celebrations in the island is Chinese New Year. Before we visited, I wasn’t aware that Chinese New Year is not a single day, but a fortnight-long cycle of celebrations. The first day or two are dedicated to family, then to visiting friends’ houses bearing gifts in red envelopes.
The main street party takes place on Day 7. The streets of Georgetown’s historical centre are packed to the brim packed with visitors and locals. Events happen in various locations scattered around the area; detailed programmes can be picked up in advance, as every year different acts are featured. We saw Chinese opera in a beautiful courtyard that is normally closed to visitors, watched a drums concert and paraded along lion and dragon dances.
One of the most amazing acts is chingay, a show of skill and precision. Men with their heads wrapped in cloth take turns balancing a 15 metre-long flagpole on their foreheads, pass it to one another, throw it into the air and back.
Celebrations continue through the night, with Chinese music and fireworks in true New Year style.
For some more info on Penang, read our Five Quick Tips Penang and Penang in Ten Hawker Dishes. Have a look at our photo story below to see what to expect if you fancy visiting for next Chinese New Year.