FOR many who witnessed the wang kang festival, aimed at getting rid of the evil spirits in the historical city, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
This is because the festival, which started more than 150 years ago, is held only once every few decades. The recent festival was the fifth time the event was held in Malacca.
The last three wang kang festivals were held in 1919, 1933 and 2001, but there are no records of when the first festival was held.
For Austrian tourist, Therese Trojer, 36, being part of the event was indeed a blessing as it coincided with her honeymoon.
“This is a rare opportunity and I feel lucky to be here. I come from a country where the majority of the people are Christian, so I don’t witness such festivals in my country.
“It is indeed a colourful and vibrant event. I especially like the design of the wooden barge, which is fascinating,” said Trojer.
For one 68-year-old foreigner who only wished to be identified as Brian, and who is married to a local Nyonya, the wang kang festival was indeed an eye-opener into the rich tradition and culture of the Hokkien community in Malacca.
“My wife, Ong Siew Eng, is part of the organising committee of the festival. I am amazed by the effort it put into the festival to cleanse the city of evil spirits.
“I have done my share of travelling, and this is one event which truly amazed me. I am proud to be here to witness this festival,” he said.
Kota Melaka MP, Sim Tong Him, said that the festival united all Malaccans regardless of race, culture, beliefs and political loyalties.
“This is an event which is rich in culture, tradition and heritage.
“I would like to see this event listed in Malacca’s tourism calendar of events, and also be recognised as part of the state and country’s heritage.
“The wang kang festival is a tourist attraction, and I believe this event would draw many people from abroad and within the country just to be a part of it.
“This is not something which happens every year, but a once-in-a-lifetime festival,” said Sim.
He also said that the more people participate in the procession, the stronger would be the force to overpower the evil spirits and force them out of the city and into the barge.
Heritage of Malaysia Trust Malacca manager Collin Goh said that the festival was indeed unique.
“The barge is a good representation of the one which was used back in the 1930s, although it was modified a bit to suit modern times.
“This event is a cultural heritage which should be preserved at all costs,” said Goh.
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