This year, like last year, we welcomed the new Chinese year by counting down at Loyang Tua Pek Kong.
It was so very, very crowded.
It was so crowded we had trouble finding a spot to place our offerings.
(There were like two or three other tables like this, all full.)
It was so crowded we had trouble finding a spot to stick our candles in without burning our hands.
At first, I felt a little weird taking photographs. It’s a religious place, a place of worship, after all. But then I saw these men standing on stepladders taking photographs and I felt better about it.
The temple had its own still camera and video camera crew documenting the entire celebration.
The celebration was really huge. There were performances all through the night.
As it neared midnight, more and more devotees started flocking to the outdoor area to crowd around the stage, awaiting coundown.
A smaller motley group crowded around the God of Wealth (also called God of Prosperity and God of Fortune) but their eyes were turned towards the stage.
And then it was countdown time and then midnight and then fireworks!
Once countdown was done, everyone flocked to the God of Wealth.
Joss sticks were distributed to every person and we all stood there and waited.
I think we waited about 45 minutes or an hour, just standing there while monks chanted.
And then there was a commotion and the God of Wealth’s statue was showered with golden confetti. The lions started dancing.
And the dragon.
Apparently, the God of Wealth had arrived, but I didn’t see him.
We were then allowed into the ceremony area to stick our joss sticks into the urn, bathe ourselves in holy smoke, and throw coins at the God of Wealth’s coins.
The giant coins stood at the foot of the statue and people flocked there to toss their own coins at the coins to make awful clanging sounds.
And then it was suddenly over and everyone flocked elsewhere.
But then, just as sudden, a queue formed where my friends and I were still standing, trying to recover from the overwhelming festivities.
This is no ordinary queue. This is the longest queue you’ve ever seen.
The picture above shows the tail end of it. It covers the entire outdoor area at the back of the temple.
It snakes into the roofed compound.
Without knowing what it was for, the Goonfather joined the queue. I decided to go investigate to see where the queue ended and what it was for.
I followed it into the roofed compound.
It went right through the central compound where people do their praying and worshipping.
I had trouble taking photos in there because it was too crowded. The queue was fighting for space with other worshippers who were going about their usual business with joss sticks and offerings.
So I stuffed my camera into my pocket and tried to push my way through the congestion. I finally emerged outside, triumphant, thinking that I would finally get to see what the queue was all about.
I was mometarily blinded by floodlights outside the temple, but when my vision recovered, I saw that the queue was still extending out further than I could see.
It went out into the main road and curled around the temple’s perimeter, then snaked into the compound again through a side entrance.
Will it never end??
The queue led back indoors, back into the worshipping fray, where it nearly joined the first leg of that queue that was fighting for space with worshippers.
With my trusty camera, I followed the queue up a cute little bridge.
And then, finally, I found myself at the end of the rainbow.
So, where’s the pot of gold?
There’s no gold.
But there’s something better.
Ok, well, he’s actually human, but he’s dressed in the God of Wealth’s costume and, supposedly, he has the spirit of the god in him through ritual, or something like that.
So, once you’ve reached the end of the queue, you were able to buy a lucky golden coin ($2 only) from the “god” himself and personally shake his hand to receive his rich blessings.
How cool is that?
It took me almost ten minutes to investigate the queue and run back to the Goonfather to report my findings.
“You’re going to be stuck in the queue for 20 years,” I said. “It goes all the way outside the temple, around it, then back in again.”
He said, “Okay.”
“I’m going outside to eat ice cream.”
I went outside with Elyxia and Wang Wang to get some ice cream while we waited for the guys.
Ten minutes later, the guys came out.
“You gave up?” I asked.
“We cut queue,” said the Goonfather.
“How??????????!!! Can YOu???!!!!”
“Wahahahaha,” he said.
What he did was buy this lucky package from the stalls set up inside the temple.
The package consists of two mandarin oranges, a prosperity cake, a lucky pendant and a lucky golden coin (the same coin that everyone was queueing up to buy). His package cost him $10, but he figured paying more was better than queueing up.
AND he got to shake the God of Wealth’s hand by just going up to the man-god from the side and asking, “Can I shake your hand?”
So the Goonfather got his handshake and his lucky coin without queueing up.
He was mighty pleased about it.
I was pleased with my ice cream.
Need more ice cream!