Chinese New Year Customs in Indonesia

Posted on Jan 18 2014 - 2:20pm by Shem MD

Summary: Indonesia has large Chinese populations, and Chinese New Year customs in Indonesia reflect beautiful blend between Chinese and local cultures.

Indonesia is a giant melting pot for various cultures, including Chinese. Therefore, Chinese New Year is an event that is hugely celebrated in this country. While the Chinese descendants in various areas still maintain the old traditions every year, the celebrations can also be enjoyed by other people, especially in Chinatown areas. Chinese New Year celebrations and customs in Indonesia are something you cannot miss while you are here. Here is what you can expect to find when ‘Imlek’ or Chinese New Year is approaching in Indonesia.

Gift Sets Everywhere

When the Chinese New Year is approaching, expect to see various department stores and supermarkets displaying various flowers, moon cakes, fruits and gift sets in beautiful packages. Even the stores that are not specifically located within the Chinatown or Chinese population area will display such goods. There are also large bunch of red envelopes people use to give money, usually to younger people. This is because gift giving is an inseparable part of every celebration in Indonesia. It symbolizes prosperity and well wishes.

Many plant shops also sell orange trees in pots as well as special flowers used in traditional floral arrangement. Flowers, in Chinese tradition, symbolize growth and prosperity, while the orange trees symbolize happiness.

chinese new year indonesia

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Traditional Foods

The Chinese in Indonesia are descendants of immigrants that came from various areas in China such as Shanghai and Guang Zhou. Therefore, you can find huge arrays of traditional foods in Indonesian markets, stores and Chinatowns when the Chinese New Year is approaching. Here are some examples:

  • Fish; this is a type of food commonly served in many tables during Chinese New Year. Fish symbolizes prosperity and happiness because the Chinese character for fish is similar to the word ‘abundance.’ The fish is usually served whole, in sweet and sour sauce or steamed. Whole fish symbolizes family togetherness. It is no wonder that fish prices are often hiked up in many markets when the Chinese New Year is approaching.

fish dishes chinese new year

  • Jiaozi; this is a type of meat dumpling traditionally served in northern China region. The dumpling name symbolizes a phrase that means the last meeting on the last hour before the New Year comes.

jiaozi dumpling

  • Sweet Tray; red trays full of various sweets from fruits, seeds and peanuts are often sold in various stores near Chinese New Year, because they are traditional foods to serve in many houses or given as gifts. The trays symbolize togetherness, good luck and ‘sweet’ beginning of the year.

sweet tray chinese new year

  • Whole Chicken and Noodle; they traditionally represent long life and prosperity, but to achieve the true meaning, both foods must be served whole. The chicken should not be cut up and must be served with the head. Noodle is not cut; therefore, it becomes super long in your bowl.

chicken chinese new year



Festivities for Everyone

One beautiful aspect about Chinese New Year customs in Indonesia is that the celebration is for everyone. Families may gather for private moments, but the entire spirit of celebration belongs to everybody. Chinatown will be packed with people, including tourists, who want to look for various delicacies and goods that are usually just sold during this special moment. Lion dance and various performances are held in many venues for everyone.

lion dance

Shem MD
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Shem MD is a young doctor who really has a passion for travel and food. He started his hobby of writing about travel and food when he graduated from medical school and became the founder of Through a blog created by him, he aspires to gather stories from people all over the world about their experiences in travel and food. He also was a true lover of the art of magic, musical instruments, and mind-blowing movies. And most importantly he is a big fan of Liverpool Football Club. The words often out of him were "Nomad is my middle name !" Shem MD also get Internet Marketing Fundamentals Practitioner Certification, Social Media Practitioner Certification, Content Marketing Practitioner Certification, Display Advertising Practitioner Certification from and a member of OMCP Organization. Shem MD also get Hootsuite Certified Professional and a Hootsuite Media Inc. Community Ambassador for Asia Pacific (ID) (Volunteer) Passionate in Digital Marketing, Internet Marketing, and Social Media. Specialties: Entrepreneurship, Business Building, Creative Strategy, Social Media Strategist, Travel and Food Blogging, General Medical Practitioner, Skin Care Business, Magic Props, and Concept Consultant.