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Year of the Rabbit brings good luck to Glodok sellers

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Jakarta. Vendors in Jakarta’s Chinatown Glodok are seeing better sales this year as consumers rush to buy gifts and decorations for Chinese New Year celebrations.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo lifted Covid-19 restrictions earlier this year. This would be the first time the Chinese New Year, locally known as Imlek, festivities have taken place amid the pandemic without a Covid-19 curb.

Riyadi was one of the street vendors in Jakarta’s Chinatown Glodok. When the Jakarta Globe stopped by Glodok earlier this week, its stall attracted quite a crowd of people looking for envelopes.

“Sales have improved compared to last year. Last year, most of my customers were the loyal customers who placed orders online,” Riyadi told The Globe on Tuesday.

A long tradition on Chinese New Year is for family elders to give red envelopes filled with money to their children and grandchildren as a blessing from the older generations. So it should come as no surprise that envelopes were selling like hot cakes at Riyadi’s booth.

“Red envelopes are one of the bestsellers and cost between Rp 5,000 and Rp 40,000 [about 33 cents – $2.65],” he said.

Red envelopes with rabbits as seen in Glodok on January 17, 2023. (JG Photo/Oliver Dixon)

Many of his customers were also looking for wall decorations and lanterns, the latter of which could cost as much as Rp 1.8 million.

“Last year we sold a lot of red masks with Chinese characters on them, but this year I didn’t bother to sell them because the restrictions were lifted,” Riyadi said.

Riyadi and his family have been selling Chinese New Year decorations for eight years. He normally sells produce and will help the family sell Chinese New Year decorations when Imlek approaches.

“We have three stores in Glodok and they are all owned by my family,” he said.

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Glodok glows red as the markets are filled with red lanterns, wall decorations and envelopes on January 17, 2023.  (JG Photo/Oliver Dixon)
Glodok shines red as the markets are filled with red lanterns, wall decorations and envelopes on January 17, 2023. (JG Photo/Oliver Dixon)

One of the most important traditions for Indonesians celebrating Chinese New Year is a big family dinner on the eve of the new year. Young and old relatives exchanged gifts, symbolizing wishes for good health and fortune, while acting as a blessing between generations.

With less than a week until the festivities begin, the market was bustling with customers preparing for their family gatherings. One of these clients was Farah.

“We stay indoors, but also visit other relatives, but I’m cooking from Saturday this year,” said Farah when asked by the Globe about her plans for this year’s Imlek.

“Today I mainly bought snacks for the guests who come to enjoy at our house.”

However, the threat of Covid-19 has not completely disappeared from the public eye, and revelers like Farah are still cautious about meeting relatives over the holidays.

“Nowadays, when I go to my grandmother’s house, I get an antigen test to make sure I’m not a carrier,” she said.

Aside from family gatherings, revelers often go to watch dragon and lion dances performed in the streets and malls. They also often pray in temples.

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