On Saturday evening Kris and I started out on what was supposed to be a research trip for me for a story I am writing. But we had so much fun it really just turned into a pretty cool date night. We went to an area of our island called the Clan Jetties. The Hokkien people in that area of our island were celebrating the birthday of one of their gods, called the Jade Emperor. We didn’t know what to expect, but we explored the area while the participants made preparations, the had a lovely dinner a few blocks away, then walked back to the area of the jetties to find the beginnings of a huge street party. The writer in me was happy. This was exactly what I had envisioned for the project I am working on. Even better actually. The traveler in me was excited to learn about and see something new. And a part of me was sad, to see offerings being made to a statue. This verse came to my mind all evening, and even the next day in church when we sang about Calvary and our salvation as a result of Jesus’ sacrifice:
“What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?” (Deut. 4:7)
Below I’ve included some pictures of some of the preparations. You can see giant joss sticks (incense) and fire pit that was prepared in front of one of the jetties. At midnight the joss sticks would be lit and the gold papers and paper money called “hell notes” would be burned in the pit to “send” to the Jade Emperor.
You can see the incredibly long offering table that all the families of the jetties and others would use to hold their offerings. That’s the one with the sugar cane stalks. Legend has it that in ancient China the Hokkien people hid from their enemies in a sugar cane field and when they safely emerged, it was the day of the Jade Emperor’s birthday. So now, sugar cane is an important offering. Other important items to offer during this time are pink colored cakes in the shape of turtles, fruit, roasted pig, and gold paper folded festively (to be burned at midnight).
Later that evening, the streets filled with thousands of people and we watched flagpole acrobats called Chingay as well as a lion dance where two “lions” (two guys operating each one) did their stunts on huge poles. Impressive. So I had to include some videos here for you as well because that’s as close as I can get to having you there with us! Here are videos of Chingay and the Lion Dance.
So, I’d count the evening a success…as a research trip and as a very interesting date night! But I also spent all the next day praying for the participants. May they find TRUTH.