Friday, February 23, 2007

Chinese New Year Penang Style

This picture was in the Malaysia Star Newspaper last Tuesday. My friend Jill next to me loves everything Chinese. As you can see her home is beautifully decorated with bamboo, and various pictures. Well she had a friend at the paper who wanted to do a photo op with her. The Title of the article was "American Twist to CNY" (Chinese New Year). They needed some extra bodies to toss the "Yee Sam" , a traditional raw fish salad served at CNY. We are all tossing with chopsticks in our very traditional Chinese clothes. Jill has lived in Penang for 5 years and 5 years in Singapore before that. She takes Mandarin, and she practices Feng Shui and Qigong (a mental practice). The lady in the pink with the boy is my friend Karen from Florida. She is LDS too and a great sounding board for me. I like this picture because it makes me look really skinny. I got tons of calls from friends saying I looked so thin.

Chinese New Year in Penang is celebrated the full 15 days. They start out by cleaning and sweeping everysingle corner of the house. Then the broom won't be touched for fear of sweeping out the good luck! In America we are used to eating Manarin oranges from the can. Here in Penang they are in great abundance in the fresh variety. They are given to hosts as good luck gifts in 2's or 4's. Also all unmarried children, guards, drivers etc. are given an Ang Pow. An Ang Pow or Hong Bow is a little red envelope filled with money. Red is Luck, Gold Prosperity. The Chinese are very superstitious and love the word Auspicious adj: encouraging, favorable, luck prosperous etc.. There are dozens of Chinese superstitions around this time of year, and we are having a blast getting in on the fun. We will probably always celebrate Chinese New Year as a major holiday now for the rest of our lives. Gong Xi Fa Cai !

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Thipusam in Penang

Thipusam is a Hindu holy day devoted to Lord Murgha. It is widely celebrated in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Most Indians in India have no clue about this celebration that is such a big part of the Indian Community here. Malaysian Hindus who feel their prayers and wishes have been answered offer sacrifice or Ponggal to Lord Murgha for his blessings on them. They show their gratitude in the form of physical piercings and offerings of milk and flowers. In the following pictures you can see the various hooks holding little metal orbs of milk that are hooked through the sacrifants skin. You can also see some of the piercings go through the cheeks, nose, lips and tounge. I believe there are other cultures who do this as well.
Then the devotee will walk several miles to the temple of Lord Murgha here in Penang to offer Ponggal. Sometimes they pull great weights from the hooks on their backs as Christina is showing here in frot of a cute statue of the Elephant God Ganesha. During this Holiday that lasts for 3 days there is a very festive atmosphere and all Hindus are dressed to kill and enjoy dancing and feasting the night away.

This lovely picture of the Indian family is of our favorite taxi driver Danieel and his wife. It is great to go to festivals, the mall, a restaurant and run into friends! Danieel has become a good friend of Dave's. They have had the funniest conversations! When Dave asked if his marriage was arranged by his parents, he said "No sir! match!" I think he got the good end of the stick if you ask me because she is beautiful!
Dave is standing next to a darling set of sisters whose dress is typical of the festive nature of the day. We truly have fallen in love with the Indian culture. We love the food, dress, music, movies, festivals, but most of all the people. We feel very blessed to know them well. We never ever would have had the chance to understand them if we hadn't come to Malaysia.
I think I can speak for all of my family when I say...."India?
I can live there."