Chinese New Year in Bali takes place around late January or mid-February each year. This special holiday is observed by Balinese of Chinese descent as well as by most Chinese Indonesians across the nation. Bali’s Chinese cultural influences go way back throughout the island’s history. Examples include Balinese temples bearing Chinese architectural features, the use of ancient Chinese coins in rituals, and early settlements in the Kintamani highlands where legend tells of the marriage between a Balinese king and a Chinese princess.
Fast forward to present day, you can visit majestic Chinese and Buddhist temples, called klenteng in the local tongue, around the island. They’re great places to visit on any day of the year, but are truly alive and festive during the Chinese New Year celebrations. Chinese barongsai lion and dragon dance troupes, together with their drum and cymbal wielding entourage, carry out wushu performances and acrobatic stunts to cheering crowds on the street and within temple courtyards. Chinese restaurants are also suitable places to dine out for the occasion over specialty cuisines. Here, we show you where to enjoy some cool celebrations and even help bring in the Chinese Lunar New Year in Bali.
What to Expect During Chinese New Year in Bali
Chinese New Year, commonly referred to as Imlek in Bali and the rest of Indonesia, is celebrated in the households of Chinese Balinese families everywhere on the island. It usually involves rituals known as sinchia, with prayers dedicated to ancestors before family altars. Offerings of colourful fruits and cakes are laid out with lit candles and billowing smoke from burning incense sticks. Money trees, red lanterns and other Chinese decorations adorn the homes. After prayers, feasts ensue and children and unmarried family members are handed out typical red angpao money packets by elder family members.
As a visitor you can experience the festive Chinese New Year vibe in almost every public space. Your best bet is your hotel lobby, featuring their own version of money trees and bright red adornments. Some hotels may even highlight their onsite restaurant’s Chinese New Year dining promos. Bali’s shopping malls often cater to the Chinese holiday season with discount deals, sometimes weeks leading up to the lunar new year date. Unlike during Ramadan, when many Muslims travel out of the island to gather with their families outside Bali, the traffic during Chinese New Year in Bali is pretty much the same.
A popular greeting during Chinese New Year is ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai’, which is a Mandarin phrase meaning, ‘may you have a prosperous New Year’.
Chinese Temples in Bali
The best places for you to freely visit during Chinese New Year are Bali’s Chinese temples. There are a few magnificent Chinese temples around Bali where Chinese lion and dragon dance troupes parade the streets before performing at the temple grounds. Expect a scene with noisy firecrackers and lots of smoke and drumming beats in the air, as well as joss paper burning and solemn prayers inside the majestic temples. Some of these temples are centuries old, and are historical landmarks worth visiting any day.
Where to Enjoy a Chinese New Year Dinner in Bali
Join in on the lunar new year celebrations by sampling delicious Chinese fare with family and friends. Here are some of the island’s best Chinese restaurants where special dishes and highlights are usually prepared just for the Chinese New Year in Bali. Enjoy everything from Peking roast duck to dim sum, yum cha, your wok-fried favourites, and even a special “prosperity toss”, otherwise known as yusheng, to joyfully celebrate the turn of the lunar year.