Devotees gather at Hai Choo Soo Temple for Chneah Hoay ceremony

GEORGE TOWN: Devotees flocked to the Hai Choo Soo Temple in Tanjung Tokong to witness the Chneah Hoay (flame-watching) ceremony and usher in the new Dragon Year.

The annual event, which dates back over 200 years, saw crowds of devotees come to offer prayers for a prosperous new year.

They lighted joss sticks to offer prayers and seek better fortunes for the Year of the Dragon.

Some let off firecrackers in the temple’s courtyard, while others took the opportunity to enjoy local hawker fare nearby during the event on Friday (Feb 23).

Attendees included a family of four: See Li Kim, her husband, Jared Lim, both 39, and their daughter Gin Lim (8) and son Jared Lim (5), were seen lighting a big joss stick to usher in and pray for a prosperous year.

“We come almost every year to offer prayers.

“We light joss sticks and pray for an ‘Ong’ year.

“We run a goreng pisang stall, so we are praying for a stable year with good business,” said See.

See said she has been frequenting the temple since she was small and has made it a custom to come every year with her children.

“It is a tradition we have to pray here, and we believe it is important,” she said.

The flame-watching ceremony takes place around midnight. The temple’s committee members will observe the nature of the flames bursting from an incense urn following three strokes of the fan.

The flames’ stability, brightness and strength would signify the deity Tua Pek Kong’s predictions for the economy for four-month cycles of the year.

The first flame represents the economic fortunes from February to May, with the second covering June to September and the third for October to January.

Before the ceremony each year, the statue of the Tua Pek Kong deity is brought from the Poh Hock Seah Tua Pek Kong Temple in Armenian Street to the Hai Choo Soo Temple, after which it makes the return journey on the following day.