It is the Year of the Horse this year according to the Chinese zodiac. Chinese New Year is possibly the most traditional festival and ritual in Singapore. It begins with the reunion dinner on New Year Eve followed by numerous house visits on the subsequent days. We usually visit the houses of the oldest in the family first as a show of respect. Chinese believe that ‘people’ are a kind of good aura so it is a tradition to host many guests so as to accumulate the good aura in the house. The more good aura you have, the higher the likelihood of the family having a great year ahead. Singapore people are a pragmatic, modern bunch but we get quite traditional during Chinese New Year – new $$$ notes and clothes to signify a new start; red decorations in the house to acquire the good festive aura; an abundance of food to signify a year of good harvest and abundance ahead. What I dislike most about Chinese New Year is the incessant waiting when we play host and wait for the arrival of the guests. It seems impolite to call and rush them so all we can do is to patiently wait. I find this social custom quite annoying and I lose a lot of time waiting as a result of this custom.
What I like most about Chinese New Year is the ‘yu sheng’. It is apparently a rather Straits Chinese dish. I like the tradition of tossing the vegetables while saying something auspicious as a group. It gets messy but it’s fun and unique in its own way.
I also really love the pineapple tarts. I love how they are made by families rather than factories. I love receiving handmade pineapple tarts from friends and family, it’s really heart-warming. 🙂 The number of handmade things in Singapore is decreasing in a worrying manner. I hope this tradition can go on.
Something really bothers me during Chinese New Year though. I have seen so many relatives, young and old, in a matter of 2 days. With regards to some of them, I only meet them on this occasion. When I meet so many different people in a short span of time, I feel that I understand life better. The youngest children crave for the attention of the adults while the oldest folks crave for the love and care of their children. At the beginning and towards the end, people know that people are the most important to them. I wonder where did money come in. I wonder why the people in the middle phase of their lives crave for money and more money. Why do we yearn for something that eventually would not be important to us? I feel that life is bigger than money. I want to live life with dreams that can possibly change the world in a practical and realistic manner. Giving is definitely more rewarding than getting.
I also wonder about being Chinese given that people around the world does not celebrate Chinese New Year in the same fashion. The idea of reunion is certainly weaker in Singapore as compared to Malaysia, China and Taiwan where the countries are bigger and Chinese New Year is a opportune time for family members to get together. The Chinese New Year delicacies also differ from one place to the other. Furthermore, the Vietnamese also celebrate the Lunar New Year and it is also the biggest festival of the year for them. How ‘Chinese’ am I when I celebrate Chinese New Year in Singapore?
On another note, I also attended the River Hongbao at the Float @ Marina this year. It’s a pretty interesting contrast – Chinese-styled mega lanterns against one of the most modern city landscape in the world. The event is not as touristy as I imagined it to be, there was a carnival with the various game booths and food stalls, a stage with performance and an area for people to play a word quiz (灯谜). I sat at the spectator’s stand, drank local beer, watched the dance of fancy green laser from the Marina Bay Sands (MBS) hotel and listened to the local Malay folk music performed in the middle of Chinese-styled mega lanterns. This is Singapore and I am utterly in love with the contrasts.