This was our first Chinese New Year celebration outside China, and in Singapore, it is definitely different but no less festive.
Because of the cultural revolution in China, lots of mainlanders don’t celebrate certain holidays as closely to the ‘old way’ as people in Hong Kong, Taiwan and even Singapore do.
A staple Chinese New Year in Beijing involves lots of jiaozi (dumplings) and for this I am eternally grateful. They are pretty much the best food in the world! Plus drinking, staying up all night, watching the CCTV freak show with scary stage children gala that lasts all night, followed by fireworks for weeks that make you sleep deprived and your children and pets a nervous wreck (not to mention it could be a national sport trying to dodge fireworks! The proper way to set off fireworks in Beijing, is to take some that would certainly be illegal in other countries but manufactured on the cheap in China, get drunk, go outside and set them off in the street. Under no circumstances should you bother to look left or right before setting them off. That granny walking by you? It’s her job to get out of the way!).
Some observations of Chinese New Year in Singapore:
- In Singapore, things seem to be more similar to the Hong Kong style – for example, people say Gong Xi Fa Cai (Cantonese is Kong Hey Fatt Choy – sp?) which is wishing you good luck. In China we would say Xin Nian Kuai Le (Happy New Year!).
- No fireworks here, Singapore is nothing if not safe and clean!
- People don’t eat dumplings, they get together and stir raw fish in salad with noodles, all reaching in and tossing it up as high as possible, and shouting out well wishes. The fish symbolizes abundance, and is usually raw.
- Mandarin oranges are the thing here, genetically engineered ones are everywhere that have a ton of fruit on them. People buy them for the holiday, but you can’t eat the fruit b/c of all the chemicals. So once that fruit falls and if more grows back you can eat those.
- It’s all about the animal of the year, while t his is true in China there are more consistent symbols each year, such as the little woman and man with their hands clasped together, the character for good fortune is everywhere, fish paper cutouts, etc. Here it mostly seemed the decorations were Rabbits for year of the Rabbit, with an occasional fish design.
- There are a lot more lion dances in Singapore than you w ould find in Beijing. Almost every office has them at some point, plus ones that go roaming around shop to shop or around populated areas.
- Hongbao (little red envelopes) are more common here than Beijing. In China, you would use them to give the kids at a family gathering cash, you would also put your cleaner or nanny’s bonus inside. Other than that, its not really used. But in Singapore lots of people seem to exchange them, and thankfully, its common in the work place too!
Below are a selection of photos from Chinese New Year in Singapore.
Mandarin Orange Trees Everywhere
Tasteful Year of the Rabbit display outside a shopping complex – saw it when we came back from Christmas and momentarily thought Easter decor was up already!
Hongbao and oranges in the office
Lion dance at our office – we had two lions!
Chinese characters spell ‘wang’ or prosperity on the ground with orange slices. From a local lion dance outside a restaurant near our house.
Me posing with the cheeky bunny – guess who is who!
Happy Year of the Rabbit y’all!