Chinese New Year is a big annual occasion that tops Christmas in Singapore. No shops are open during the two public holidays and hardly any hawker stalls ( be wary in case you are travelling to Singapore during this time). But in return, you get to experience the traditions and culture that have been around for centuries. Many countries other than China celebrate CNY – Myanmar, Vietnam and actually any country/region that has a large chinese population aka any Chinatown!
There are many traditions and practices that take place during the two weeks of Chinese New Year which started last Sunday with the reunion dinner. Families gather around the table to take part in the Lo Hei(mix it up) or Yusheng. This prosperity toss consists of fish and shredded vegetables which are added in by the host, each ingredient representing something else. Once all the ingredients are added, everyone at the table tosses the mixed dish has high as possible ( a higher toss brings higher luck!).
This tradition has been around since the Song dynasty, where fishermen sat together on the 7th day of Chinese New Year (also known as everyone’s birthday).
The fun part is in the big mess you create when tossing everything together. The next best part is eating it of course.
During the next two days of Chinese New Year, which are public holidays in Singapore, everyone visits family members and friends. The beauty of CNY in Singapore is that all races take part in this and visit their Chinese friends during these days. It is a fun gathering which consists of Mahjong at the table, many goodies such as pineapple tarts and of course, the famous Ang Pow. Ang Pows are the red envelopes that people give filled with money. You only have to give these out if you are married, the perks of being single!
The art work at the front of each Ang Pow hold a message to the receiver, bringing prosperity and blessings.
Another important symbol during Chinese New Year is the pair of oranges you give and receive from others. Tangerines sound similar to luck while oranges sound similar to wealth in the Chinese language which explains the gift as a sign of good fortune.
During Chinese New Year, the streets in Singapore are filled with bright lights and lanterns. And Chinatown has the most spectacular display!
The celebrations carry on for two weeks and markets pop up everywhere you go. A great market to visit is in Bugis, just behind the Bugis street market. When we went, we were lucky enough to see the infamous dragon and lion dance (after I made my sister run with me to follow the noise of the beating drums and clashing cymbals) – my favourite part of Chinese New Year.
The chinese dragon is a symbol of China and you can find dragons on buddhist temples too. They are believed to have great powers and the longer the dragon is that is performing, the more luck it brings.
As for the lion dance, each lion is operated by two dancers and there is always more than 1 lion dancing, sometimes involving a dance off. This tradition of dancers masked as animals has been around for a very long time, and is not just common in Chinese traditions.
As you can see, each symbol and activity carries luck and good fortune which is the main theme around Chinese New Year, while sharing all of that with your loved ones. This year, is the year of the Fire Monkey – ambitious and adventurous. So where are all of my Fire Monkey’s at?