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Friday, 16 February 2024 16:18

Eating Ikan Bandeng while Imlek celebration

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In Jakarta, one of the market  centers of  milkfish ahead of the Chinese New Year celebrations  is on Jalan Sulaiman, Rawabelong, West Jakarta. Once a year, the street, which is also famous as a  market selling various flowers, is filled with milkfish vendors. What's unique is that those who buy milkfish here, apart from people of Chinese descent, are also mostly Betawi native Jakarta people who are not of Chinese descents. The milkfish for the Chinese New Year celebration is different from the milkfish that is sold every day, because the milkfish for the Chinese New Year celebration are usually large in size.

As the Chinese New Year celebration approaches, Betawi people, who have extra money, will buy as much milkfish as possible to cook and send to their  parents in-laws and parents. In the Chinese community living in Indonesia, one of the main dishes is milkfish which is a symbol of prosperity or good fortune. Here, there is acculturation of Chinese culture and Betawi culture. This acculturation is demonstrated in the Chinese New Year celebrations on which the tradition of eating milkfish not only belongs to the Chinese ethnic group, but also becomes part of the Betawi ethnic tradition.

Betawi people usually cook milkfish in pindang, pindang milkfish. This typical Betawi milkfish pindang has unique characteristics that make it different from milkfish pindang from other regions. The difference is in the use of spices and the addition of soy sauce as a sweetener to the dish. The philosophical meaning from the Betawi people's perspective is that milkfish is known for having lots of thorns so that if you eat milkfish it is hoped that you will get a lot of good fortune. Meanwhile, in the Chinese community, large milkfish are deliberately chosen during Chinese New Year as a symbol of great fortune in life, and the large number of thorns in milkfish can be interpreted as meaning that as humans, in carrying out a complicated life, you need to be careful. The deeper meaning for the Betawi and Chinese people is that milkfish is a symbol of respect. A family member who does not bring milkfish to older people, such as parents and parents in-law is considered to have no decency. In the Betawi Community, a tradition that has been carried out for generations is that delivering milkfish to their in-laws is called delivering or "Ngejot" milkfish. A daughter-in-law who does not send milkfish to her in-laws on Chinese New Year is considered a stingy daughter-in-law.

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Listeners,  The reason  why the milkfish is usually eaten on Chinese New Year's Eve, is that the word fish in Mandarin sounds similar to the word Yu which means prosperity. Because eating milkfish during Chinese New Year is believed to bring good luck and prosperity in the following year.

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