Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Chinese Lunar New Year


January 31st sees the issuing in of the new lunar year (Spring Festival) in the Chinese calendar. This year sees us saying goodbye to the year of the snake and welcomes in the year of the horse.This has to be the biggest festival here in Singapore with not only the Chinese community celebrating but many others, us included! We have decorated the condo for this celebration whereas we didn't really make the effort for Christmas!! We are definitely going to make the most of our first Chinese New Year out here :)

The festival begins on the 1st day of the 1st month in the Chinese calendar and is celebrated for a fortnight. This is a time to clear away all the ill fortune from the past year making room for good fortune for the next. This is done by spring cleaning your home (large bins have been delivered to our condo for people to get rid of rubbish, indeed we have disposed of drawer units). New clothes are bought, along with new shoes which seems to be popular for all festivals whatever religion. Don't try to get your hair cut at the moment if you don't need to, this is a tradition for CNY however I am hearing of surcharges because of it!

Families come together at this time of year and everyone, regardless of where you now live, are traditionally expected to return to their families. In Hong Kong we got chatting to a girl at the airport who had come to work in the HK office for the the next month so she would be at home for New Year.

Children and single relatives will be given "hong boa" which are red envelopes with new money inside. These are traditionally red (a sign of prosperity) however I have seen many decorated with "hello kitty" and even minions!!. Many people collect these packets, a friend of ours is finding it difficult to get new ones for his mother each year. Families come together and, especially in Singapore, they will eat yusheng a raw fish salad (see info further down) they will also celebrate by eating cured pork, roast duck and abalone, all signs of wealth and prosperity.

For the past few weeks Singapore and especially chinatown has been building up to to this. The streets have been decorated with lanterns and coins and horses, all lit up adorning shops, buildings and of course the 2 main roads in chinatown. A street market has been added to the already busy market stalls in chinatown and if you visit its utter chaos but great fun! We've managed to visit several times this year and its very slightly less manic during the week and clearly during day time but then you miss the decorations being lit up. The previous weekend there was a Lion dance competition however the tickets were sold out so I will have to wait for another year to see this spectacle. 

If you do visit the market I hope you have a sweet tooth, people in Singapore certainly do (personally since moving here I crave sausage rolls, pork pies and black pudding!!!) On sale are jelly sweets, pineapple cookies and other sweets and biscuits, candies fruits, cured pork meats, that are also quite sweet, different flavoured pumpkin, melon and sunflower seeds and also a New Year cake Nian Gou, this is made from sticky rice powder and brown sugar. It is steamed or fried. Sometimes it is offered to the kitchen god because if their mouth is full of sticky cake they cant say anything bad to your family in heaven. I can certainly testify that is incredibly sticky and sweet, too sweet for me. In fact to me it's a cross between jelly and glue with the sweet taste of dates.There are also many many other treats.

sacks of peanuts
numerous different nuts in different flavours

candies fruits

more candied fruits
different flavoured pumpkin seeds
cookies and pastry snacks, our favorite are the pineapple flavoured ones
New Year cake - Nian Gou
dried persimmons

pumpkins. These are not used for eating
cured pork sausages, some are made of liver
whole duck?
just a few to choose from!
Cured ham - very very expensive
This year as mentioned earlier, is the year of the horse and in fact the wooden horse (green horse) I was born in the  year of the fire horse, which apparently out of the five elements of each character (fire, wood, earth, water and metal) fire is the strongest in 2014 as wood helps fire to burn longer and stronger. 2014 should therefore be a good year for me - we shall see!! Having said that I will need to look after my heart and my cardiovascular system because of all the heat!

If your interested in the chinese zodiac could can find further information here http://www.chinesefortunecalendar.com/2014ChineseHoroscope.htm

I'm hoping to get down to chinatown on the eve of 30th to celebrate with everyone and see in the new year, watching the live performances culminating in fireworks and firecrackers, it should be busy, loud and much fun.

Below are just a few of traditions and meanings behind CNY.

The colour red and gold              symbolises                    Wealth and prosperity
Pink blossoms                                    "                               Perseverance
Bamboo                                             "                               Long life
Mandarin oranges (given in pairs)     "                               Wealth
Fish                                                    "                               Plenty for the coming year
Pomelos                                             "                               Health & children

Gong xi fa cai - is the traditional greeting for new year means "may you be prosperous"  are you beginning to see a theme here?

Throughout Singapore and certainly in our home to! you will see pineapple decorations along with pineapple flavoured sweets and biscuits. The pineapple across the world is the sign for "welcome" 

In mandarin the word pineapple sounds like "wealth"
Mandarin oranges sound like "luck"
Dumplings are supposed to look like gold bars - not seeing this one myself
Yu sheng (raw fish) is a salad of raw fish and vegetables and this sounds like "increasing abundance" The tradition when eating this salad is for all the family to use their chopsticks together to toss the salad into the air, the higher it goes the higher your earnings for the following year.
Fat Choy - black moss algae in Cantonese sounds like "prosperity"

GONG XI FA CAI - may your year be prosperous!

Buddha Tooth Relic temple

Bamboo which comes in different colours. We purchased pink and wine and 2 weeks on it is shooting a growing in the vase!

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