Mazu birthday celebrations
at Thian Hock Keng
Mazu’s birthday falls on the 23rd day of the 3rd lunar and Thian Hock Keng commemorated this day with a series of religious and cultural events.
In fact, the first prayers started 4 days earlier. On the actual day, Taoist priests began ritual chanting early in the morning. The temple was also decorated and prepared for the crowds of devotees who arrived to pay respect to Mazu.
The devotees, young and old, came to offer their prayers and the tables were full of offerings to Mazu. These items included longevity peaches, a type of Chinese pastry, flowers, fruits, prosperity cakes, longevity noodles, scented water, Ang Ku Kueh and candies.
Outside the temple and across the street was a traditional puppet show entertaining devotees and giving younger visitors and tourists a rare opportunity to watch the traditional performance not easily found elsewhere today.
By the side hall of the temple, free vegetarian food was being served to all visitors.
In the evening, there was another prayer session. This time, a geitai performance replaced the puppet show. The temple was again packed with visitors.
Thian Hock Keng temple’s activities always attract a diverse crowd of visitors. Since it is Mazu’s birthday, the primary crowd was devotees arriving to pay respect. Coming along with these devotees were their family members. As usual, it became an educational and cultural experience. There were also many young visitors came with a group of friends to explore or maybe to experience the event.
If the crowds at Thian Hock Keng seem to be getting younger, this was also reflected their many young volunteers giving information or ushering the visitors.
The expatriate community was also aware of the celebrations as they came in groups to take photos of the celebrations and many stop by to watch the puppet show. During the day, quite a few tour buses arrived, bringing East Asian, Caucasian and even Indian tourists to experience the celebration.
Thian Hock Keng while celebrating Mazu birthday also created opportunities for social, cultural and education experiences for visitors. As an institution that welcomes people of all backgrounds, its celebration opened a door for local and overseas Chinese and non Chinese visitors to experience and to understand traditional cultural events.
Event date: 18 April 2009,
23rd day of the 3rd lunar month, year of the Ox