Sat, 15 Jan 2000

Imlek Chinese New Year decorations color the city

JAKARTA (JP): Ornaments of Imlek Chinese New Year have started to color the street kiosks at the busy Chinatown of Glodok in downtown Kota of West Jakarta as the annual celebration is just weeks away.

On Friday, vendors along the crowded 300 meter street of Jl. Pancoran have already put on display a variety of red-dominated ornaments and accessories for Imlek, which this year falls on Feb. 5.

The merchants believe that their business this year will be much better than last year since the authorities have been more accommodating towards Chinese culture.

Afung, a longtime trader selling Imlek ornaments at the same kiosk every year, said he now has courage to display his merchandise more openly and in more variety because he believes that people will not bother his business.

"Last year, I also ran this same business but on a small scale since I still doubted whether the authorities really accepted things related to the Chinese," he recalled.

Now, we feel free to display and sell these ornaments," the merchant explained.

Like the other dozens of kiosks offering Imlek accessories in the area, Afung's offer a wide range of merchandise, from paper lanterns, to cakes, candies and envelopes for angpau.

Some of the vendors also offer Chinese-style clothes for children and big papermade barongsai lions.

At a corner of Afung's shop, colorful paper-made dragons, the astrological sign for the upcoming Chinese lunar year, are also on display.

The presence of the Imlek ornament traders has apparently narrowed Jl. Pancoran and led to fairly serious traffic congestion.

Some merchants have broadcast songs related to the celebration to enlive the celebratory mood among the Chinese.

According to another trader, Steven, a large number of Imlek revelers were shopping a few days before the recent Idul Fitri and bought several ornaments.

Both Steven and Afung worried that their stocks won't meet the estimated growing demand for Imlek ornaments this year.

Steven revealed that most of the ornaments were shipped from Malaysia, China and Taiwan.

"We import almost all of the things, even a small thing like the paper lanterns," he said.

Afung added that even the suppliers have limited stocks at their warehouses.

Akong, another trader, said the cookies and candies have to be imported from the three countries.

"Local (Chinese) people here are still unable to make qualified Imlek Chinese candies and cookies," Akong explained.

Luckily, the number of suppliers of the Imlek goods have continuously spiraled upwards.

"In the past two days alone, at least three new suppliers offered me their merchandise," he said. (ind)