The Peranakans have a unique cultural heritage that dates back to the 15th century. From their customs to traditions and practices, everything has a meaning and significance to it.
1. The Peranakan society is a matriarchal one, where the woman is the head of the family and leads the home. They are known as “Nyonyas” and the male counterparts are known as “Babas” and “Bibik” means an older female Peranakan. In the end of colonial days ( 1950s-60s) the women would earn by cooking, making handicrafts etc., while the men were known to be quite laidback, therefore women would become the leaders/heads of the house.
2. The female Peranakans have a habit of chewing sireh ( betel nut) especially the Bibiks. They had intricately carved sireh sets made of either silver, silver gilt, or gold plated.
3. The architectural style of the Peranakan homes is a combination of European, Chinese and Malay influences called Chinese Baroque.
4. Any Nyonya woman was an expert in sewing, beadwork, and embroidery. The quality of the beadwork in making bags and beaded slippers reflects the skills they possess which take months to complete a simple design.
5. The only time unmarried girls were allowed to go out was during the Chap Goh Meh (the 15th and last day of the Chinese New Year), where the girls would throw oranges into the river and wish for a good husband.
6. The attire of the Peranakans had their origins from both the Chinese and the Malays. The Nyonya’s dress originated from the Malay attire. Bibiks in the earlier decades wore the baju panjang, with a sarong and three kerosangs.
7. They would wear the baju lok chuan, which consisted of a long-sleeved silk jacket and comfortable loose-fitting trousers.
8. The Peranakans had a strong belief in supernatural powers and had many superstitious beliefs. Babies who giggled and smiled at thin air were said to be amused by the antics of their guardian angels.
9. Many Peranakans practised Taoism and Buddhism. They follow the rites and rituals of the Chinese traditions engaging in daily prayer and make ancestral offerings.
10. The Peranakan family would turn to its collection of folk medicines that used traditional herbs and spices whenever there was an illness in the family, which has been handed down through the generations.
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