Chinese New Year

Gong Xi Fa Cai, folks!

I am wrapping up a 4.5 day weekend to be precise and I can’t feel more rejuvenated. I love how there is a good holiday to look forward to bang in the beginning of the year, in Singapore. Now, who doesn’t like holidays? None? I thought as much.

I have been wanting to share some of the resplendent sights that mark the lunar new year. Chinese New Year is celebrated on a mega scale in countries inhabited by a large Chinese population and in Chinatowns of other countries. Singapore naturally has  big celebrations starting right from the first week of January and stretching all the way until a week after the Chinese New Year. The entire country is painted red and gold making it hard to not feel the spirit. The festivities in Chinatown are something one must not miss if you were to be here during this time of the year.

S, my friend and I set off to catch some action in Chinatown on the eve of Chinese New Year. We expected a crazy crowd but it wasn’t too bad, actually.

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Chinese New Year celebrations begin  from Chinese New Year’s Eve which happened to be Jan 30th this year. It goes on till the the 15th day of the first month. So you can imagine how long the festivities can be!

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The decorations are usually in red. “According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast called the Nian or “Year” in Chinese. Nian would come on the first day of New Year to devour livestock, crops, and even villagers, especially children. To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year and believed that after the Nian ate the food they prepared, it wouldn’t attack any more people. Once, people saw the Nian was scared away by a little child wearing red, they then understood that the Nian was afraid of the color red. Hence, every time when New Year was about to come, the villagers would hang red lanterns and spring scroll on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten the Nian and from then on, the Nian never came to the village again and was eventually converted by Hongjunlaozu, a Taoist in the old time, and became his mount.” (Picked from here)

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You can see red envelopes above, also called ang pau. The Chinese place money in these envelopes and exchange it with their family and friends. Ang pau is also given during weddings and other occasions. The red colour of the envelope symbolises good luck and is believed to ward off evil spirits.

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The whole of Chinatown turns into a night market of sorts and people throng the shops to buy the various symbols that mark CNY. It is amazing how there are rows and rows of shops selling just those red coloured envelopes and shops selling various wall hangings with good luck messages. The word for fish, “Yu,” sounds like the words both for wish and abundance. It is customary to serve a fish at the end of the evening meal, symbolizing a wish for abundance in the coming year. In the above pictures, you can see the fish hanging that symbolizes abundance.

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This year, being the year of the Horse, the streets were lined by horse-lights. The streets looked like they were being driven by horses and no photo can do justice to how lovely the streets looked.

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What I love about Singapore is how everyone celebrates everything. The Mariamman temple in Chinatown had a banner to wish everyone a happy Lunar Year.

Amidst all this, we also managed to do some shopping.

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The Chinese meet family members and have family lunches/dinners and get-togethers during this period. They call this open-house, a time when friends and family walk in and spend time with loved ones. We were invited to the home of one of our close Chinese friends. And since, CNY  is also the time to devour the most delicious of pineapple tarts and other yummy goodies, K and I snuck our faces into the goodies.

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So, we had the kueh bangit that melts in your mouth, peanut filled puffs, chocolate sesame cookies (yumm!), pineapple balls ( I can live on them) and pineapple cheese balls (What is not to love?). People also exchange oranges that symbolize luck and wealth. It could be because the word for orange sounds like the word that means wealth. Another fruit that symbolizes abundance and wealth is the pomelo.  Right from noodles  representing long life to an entire chicken being served to symbolize family unity, it is very  intriguing to understand the significance of various food items according to the Chinese.

Moving into Singapore has been a culturally stimulating experience for K and me. Chinese traditions, like Indian, are vast. Every festival and celebration has brought us closer and helped us appreciate them better. From the curious onlookers, we have now become part of the celebration, attending open-houses, gorging on the food and festivities and writing about it 🙂

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30 comments

  1. anisnest · February 3, 2014

    that’s a lovely narration about Chinese new year.. We have two horses at our family. Last year, Adi was upset as she didn’t have a pair to share her animal (rooster) and we instantly calculated MIL’s year of birth to match with rooster. Now, we have 2 monkeys, 2 horses, 2 dragons and 2 roosters (including the 4 of us, parents, parents-in-laws). I like Chinese people for their hard work and dedication..
    how are you kismi? long time..

    • kismitoffeebar · February 4, 2014

      Hi Ani! So good to see you. Am good. How have you been? It has been a bit crazy this side and hence my on-off acts. Adi is a rooster – nice! I am so amazed at how each of you has a pair in the family. So cool 🙂

  2. Arch · February 3, 2014

    What a lovely post Kismi!! 🙂
    I totally loved the pics, the tales and facts you shared about CNY. The temple with the banner made me most happy. I wish more people inculcate these habits and celebrate everything together.

    • kismitoffeebar · February 4, 2014

      Arch! Thank you! Yeah, it is indeed a joy to see everyone in a celebration mood irrespective of other minor details 🙂

  3. freakyveggie · February 3, 2014

    The photos are a feast to the eyes, and that’s a whole lot of information! Nice post 🙂

    • kismitoffeebar · February 4, 2014

      Thank you freakyveggie! It was beautiful sight, indeed! 🙂

  4. chattywren · February 3, 2014

    Very interesting post! love to read about traditions of different countries. Colourful pics too!

    • kismitoffeebar · February 4, 2014

      Thanks Chattywren 🙂 I love knowing about other cultures too!

  5. KP · February 3, 2014

    I knew CNY was around but thanks to you I have a wealth of information,their practices and way of celebrations.I could see some similarity too.Red is also auspicious for us and warding of evil by hanging things outside is not new.
    I relished the post with its nice pictures.

    • kismitoffeebar · February 4, 2014

      KP 🙂 You are always so generous with your appreciation. Yes, red is auspicious for Indians as well. There are many similarities, indeed! 🙂

  6. Destination Infinity · February 4, 2014

    The Chinese pastries look delicious! The lighted jumping horse is too good. I think I remember the pics you put up last year for the same occasion. Now I know why things are so RED during the new year. Initially, I thought it was the communist connection.

    Destination Infinity

    • kismitoffeebar · February 4, 2014

      Thanks DI! 🙂 Haha, they were super delicious! I haven’t posted CNY pics of Singapore on the blog if am not wrong. The ones in Malacca, you mean?
      Ya, it is red everywhere! 🙂

  7. greenboochi · February 4, 2014

    Loved to know the story behind CNY! 🙂 Enjoyed all the pictures too! 🙂 The spread at your friend’s place is too good, I am feeling hungry already 😀

    Had been seeing some very cute pics of horses from my Chinese friends as well. Its awesome to see there are no boundaries at all, Mariamman Koyil celebrating CNY! 🙂

    • kismitoffeebar · February 4, 2014

      🙂 Thanks GBiee 😛 Isn’t it amazing to see no boundaries?!
      The pineapple balls were like yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm! GB, come off now. I want you to taste them right away!

  8. Jas · February 6, 2014

    Pictures are so wonderful and the food… yummmy… lovely, happy post Toffee 🙂

  9. The Girl Next Door · February 6, 2014

    A window into a beautiful culture that I know very little about. Thank you for this! I had fun reading this informative post, and the pictures are a treat to the eyes!

    I love the symbolism that each of the little things sold in the night market has, as well as that in the different customs followed by the Chinese during New Year.

    Pineapple cheese balls – I want NOW! I want those red envelopes too – love them! They are beauties!

    • kismitoffeebar · February 7, 2014

      Am glad you enjoyed gathering tid-bits about such a vast cultur, TGND 🙂 Oh, I have lots of those red envelopes that I can give you – when we meet! 🙂
      Pineapple cheese balls are seasonal and you may need to come down here during this time of the year to taste them. Pineapple tarts are however available in parts of Malaysia more often!

  10. The Girl Next Door · February 6, 2014

    Oh, yes, it is beautiful to see the Mariamman kovil donning a banner wishing people on Chinese new year! 🙂

  11. Visha · February 6, 2014

    Gong Xi Fa Cai, Toffee 😀
    Ok, the next year, steal those Three kingdoms hero characters for me…they are just so so cute!!!
    I hope you were dressed in Red in honor and spirit of the festival 😉 😛
    So yummy treats you have listed here sigh…*Visha off to dreamland and polishing off everything*

    • kismitoffeebar · February 7, 2014

      Xie xie ni, Visha!
      ha ha – you must watch the series – K has watched all of it and it is a fantastic series! 🙂
      I was dressed in red on one of the days 🙂 Haha, enjoi your dreamland!

  12. dreamzandclouds · February 11, 2014

    I love this post…..good blend of info & pics 🙂

  13. techie2mom · February 13, 2014

    The photos looks so vibrant and full of festivities…

    • kismitoffeebar · February 14, 2014

      Thanks t2m 🙂 It is indeed a brilliant array of colours during the festive season!

  14. pixie · February 18, 2014

    Belated New Year wishes Kismi!!
    Everything looks so colourful! 🙂

    Glad to know you had a great time

  15. sjscribbles · February 20, 2014

    Hi Kismi dearie,

    Your post made me miss Singapore and as well as provided me with the view of the chinese new year celebrations that i missed this year 🙂

    Singapore has this magic that entices anyone who has lived there Kismi….sob sob sob…i’ m feeling all senti abt missing Singapore…. Missing the hot sun 🙂

    Hope you and K are doing well !

    • kismitoffeebar · February 21, 2014

      SJ, I understand totally. I thought of you and Shaktii when posting this. Haha, you must be the only one missing the hot sun. I never miss it. Bah!

      Yeah K and I are doing good. I will update you soon. You tell me ! 🙂

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