In one of the Chinese dialects, Cap Go Meh means the 15th darkness, which defines the celebration date—the 15th day of the first month in the Chinese calendar. It is devoted to the last day of the Chinese New Year celebration and it gathers families for some nice food. In contrast Cap Go Meh in the small town Singkawang in Kalimantan, with its large Chinese diaspora, has a second name for this event: Tatung—meaning going into trance.
Tatung is a very noticeable and unforgettable event for any visitor, though some may find it too disturbing. Hundreds of people practice various states of trance. Dressed in traditional costumes shamans and mediums pierce their skin with spears, needles, and other decorated tools. They dance, sing, murmur, and play ethnic instruments.
The chilling stunts are indeed the main highlight of Cap Go Meh celebration in Singkawang whichattracts crowds the most. The piercing is supposed to ward off evil spirits, and purify the town and its temples from any evil or misfortune. However watching this ritual is definitely not for the faint-hearted, an definitely not for children. In 2013, 777 people participated in Tatung rituals in Singkawang, creating a new record in the Indonesian Museum of Records (MURI).
Besides people who don't feel any pain, Tatung is famous for especially colorful costumes. Tatung ritual participants wear bright colors. The costumes resemble the clothes of Chinese gods, warriors, or some legendary figures like the Monkey King Sun Wukong. Indigenous Dayak people show up in their ethnic costumes. The Tatung ritual showcases cultural diversity of West Kalimantan.
This festival falls on February or March of the Gregorian calendar, but specific dates should be checked for every year.