09 March 2017

My First Chinese New Year in Singapore


When I was still living in Indonesia, I usually celebrate Chinese New Year with my family, eating nian gao and collecting red packets from the elderly. Now that I live in Singapore, I got to experience new rituals and traditions to commemorate Chinese New Year this year.



It's been a while since the monkey year officially ends and the rooster year starts. As someone who's born and raised with Chinese background, I'm somewhat familiar with celebrating Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival. Every year, my family will gather together, dress up in red, and greeting each other with Chinese typical hand gesture—you know, making a fist with both hands while saying Gong Xi Fa Cai. This year, though, I spent Chinese New Year a bit differently because it's my first time celebrating Chinese New Year in Singapore, away from my family in Indonesia.


Chinese New Year is indeed the most important event in the Chinese calendar. As a country with most Chinese ethnicity making up the majority of the population, Singapore celebrates Chinese New Year with a great enthusiasm. A month before the actual day, you can easily catch the festive mood: red and gold vibrant colors with rooster decoration all around the corner, from shopping mall, market, public park and even the flower bed by the roadside. The city looks just as exciting as Christmas, but with different kind of decoration—more oriental touches, less snowy.


Chinatown is undoubtedly one of the busiest location during Chinese New Year. Beside the lively markets and uproarious atmosphere, they had some special Lion Dance performance as well. I didn't get to see the Lion Dance because I was in a rush when I visited Chinatown in D-1. I was there to buy some extra foods and knickknacks for decoration.


When I was still in Indonesia, the idea of red packet or Hong Bao always comes to mind whenever someone says Chinese New Year. However, in Singapore, Chinese New Year celebration comes in more colorful processions: from visiting ancestry and pay respect to them, to reuniting with family and friends, to exchanging mandarin oranges for good luck and feasting on special meals. Red packet is one of the ritual too, but people here are more excited in welcoming Chinese New Year and be involved in the celebration itself more than just receiving red packets.


I learnt many new things this Chinese New Year. One distinct tradition that I never knew before is Lohei, also known as Yusheng or Prosperity Toss. It's a big platter consists of mix ingredients like raw fish and vegetables that is considered a symbol of abundance, prosperity and vigor. In Chinese New Year, family or friends gather to celebrate by tossing the ingredients together. The ingredients itself usually mixed in particular order with certain phrases to say to associate with the ingredients.


In the morning, I visited temple to pay respect to the elderly. I also followed around my family to the monastery that's busy with people praying and doing some rituals. Everywhere is festive during Chinese New Year, including, of course, the temple.

After dinner, we lighted up sparkles to end the day. Back then, Chinese New Year is always enlivened with bright fireworks on the sky and firecrackers along the street by the end of the day before the new regulation bans it due to safety reason. Nowadays, playing with sparkle was the most you can do if you still want to play with a bit of "fire" in this special day.


Highlights

  • Chinatown
  • Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple
    178 Waterloo St, Singapore 187964
  • Tai Pei Yuen Temple
    7 Jln Kemaman, Singapore 329333
  • Lian Shan Shuang Lin Monastery
    184 Jalan Toa Payoh, 319944

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