Sunday, February 2, 2014

Chinese New Year: Sights and Sounds from Singapore

Cai Shen, the god of fortune
This past weekend marked the beginning of Chinese (or Lunar) New Year, the biggest holiday on the calendar for both Singapore and most Asian communities throughout the world. This year is the Year of the Horse, so naturally all of the decorations had plenty of equine flair.

*I will refer to the holiday as Chinese New Year, as that is how the Singapore government officially recognizes the day*

There are many important traditions surrounding the Chinese New Year: homes are cleaned from top to bottom, new clothes are purchased, and giant meals are planned for the first few days. All of these represent efforts to sweep away the bad luck of the previous year to make room for good luck. New haircuts are essential, as the Chinese word for "hair" sounds similar to the word for "prosperity." Thus, one would prefer to do this before all of the new, better luck that comes with the New Year.

The most important meal of the holiday is Reunion Dinner, which takes place on the eve of Chinese New Year (so this year, that was Thursday Jan. 30th). Families gather from far and wide for this special meal, either prepared in one's home or in a restaurant.

Chinatown in Singapore is quite busy during the days before the New Year. Check out this video of some of the stalls selling some sweets:


Needless to say, we purchased some of these assorted candies for just $1. What a deal. 

The most common New Year greeting is "Gong xi fa cai!" The translation roughly means "Congratulations and be prosperous," but it is usually used to say "Happy New Year."

Enjoy the pictures! I'll try to do another post on the Chinese zodiac and its relevance to Chinese culture (hint: it's quite relevant). 

River Hongbao, Chinese New Year Day

Entrance to the village



Stop! In the name of love


Chinatown, Chinese New Year's Eve



Just a tad crowded
Fireworks next to People's Park Complex

Chinatown, Day 3 of CNY



The first two days of Chinese New Year involve lots of eating and family, as well as some more eating. The color red is traditionally worn, symbolizing fortune and luck. Some even go so far to wear red underwear (well, at least that is what I'm told, I didn't exactly fact check this). Fireworks are a must, both on midnight of New Year and on many of the following days.

Many foods also play a central role in the celebrations. Mandarin oranges, peanuts, pumpkins, and lots of pastries, including my personal favorite - pineapple tarts - are all consumed throughout the New Year festivities. Bak kwa, a type of barbecued meat, is also very popular, with many stores selling out in the preceding days. 

I made my first-ever dumplings with some friends for Reunion Dinner, so stay tuned for some of those pictures in the upcoming days.

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