The Peranakan spoke Malay
The Peranakan spoke Malay, ate a Malayanized cuisine, tended to dress in Malay
costumes, and incorporated a good deal of Malay into their kinship terminology
together with certain matrilineal tendencies (Clammer 1980). The customs
practiced were however heavily Chinese in form and substance. Filial piety
was very important and ancestral worship was at the core of their culture. In the
past, an altar was commonly found in Peranakan homes for the worship and
remembrance of ancestors.
Cheng Beng, when one pays respect to dead relatives, is still observed by
many Baba families. Other festivals such as Tang Chek or the Winter Solstice
Festival are still practiced in certain households, though this practice too is
diminishing. This is the Thanksgiving festival observed on the eleventh moon.
Tiny round balls of various colours and shapes are made from glutinous rice
flour, and served in bowls of syrup. They are eaten after thanksgiving prayers
have been sent to heaven. The Wangkang festival involving days of prayer and
fasting is totally unobserved nowadays. The Chinese New Year is still a very
important festival for the Babas and Nyonyas but again, many of the traditional
customs associated with Chinese New Year have been forsaken in this era of
speed and the high demands of modern living.
One of the most colourful and elaborate aspects of the Peranakan culture
was the wedding. This involved a tremendous amount of preparation and great
expense, and usually covered a time span of twelve days for all the intricate
ceremonies. Tan Siok Choo describes it as “a physically, financially and
gastronomically exhausting affair” (1982). The Baba wedding too is disappearing
and there are not many left who are familiar with the rituals involved.