Xin nian kuai le
Happy New Year
Happy Chinese New Year! Welcome to the Year of the Rooster! As the rest of the world was packing up the Christmas tree , here in Singapore, a fast transformation was occurring. Red and green decorations were replaced with gold and red. Santa Claus was replaced with images of the rooster.
Chinese New Year is a celebration that is observed by 1/5 of the world’s population. The preparations for Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year or Chinese Spring festival begin well before the date of new year’s eve. Houses are cleaned from top to toe and shopping is completed in preparation for the new year. Many decorations are put up around the house to symbolise good luck and prosperity. People also try to visit family and friends in the run up to the new year to give gifts and part well wishes.
I have been watching through my expat eyes of awe as the bright red lanterns fill the streets in anticipation of something good to come.
In preparation for today, I have learned quite a few things about the holiday. Especially how it is celebrated here in Singapore. So I thought it would be interesting to share.
Hong Bao or Ang Bao
Hong Bao or Ang Bao are the beautiful red packets seen during Chinese New Year. They are given from adult to children containing money for good luck. They can also be given from adult to adult if the receiver is unmarried. My first experience with red packets was when my husband and I were in an electronic shop early in January. We paid for our item and were given a pack of the red envelopes. They were stunning and looked so special! One of my little preschool students also did a well presented show and tell on the importance of these red packets. That was when I learned the mandarin name for them ‘hong bao’ or ‘ang bao’. She came in the next day with a packet for each classmate filled with sweets. I also got one!
The decorations are important for warning bad spirits away and welcoming good spirits to the house. Red is a colour that is considered lucky. Spring couplets or the vertical banners, are hung in pairs. The Chinese characters written on them symbolise positive words like good health, good luck, wealth, prosperity etc. Lanterns are also hung in the house for decorations.
Just as it is tradition for adults to give red packets to the children, it is also traditional to give mandarins. The mandarins symbolise good health and well wishes for the new year. Traditionally, two mandarins are offered when you wish someone happy new year. I received two from my lovely teaching assistant today.
On New Year’s eve, a reunion dinner is held in family households. Children from near and far will return to their home to share a dinner with their parents and family. I believe traditionally it is the matriarch of the household that is responsible for all the cooking. So if you are going to your mother’s house for reunion dinner then you don’t need to cook! It’s a great tradition for starting the year together. However as a result, traffic and travelling during the holiday can be a bit of nightmare with 4% of the world’s population on the move.
Fireworks and crackers are lit to scare of evil monsters. You will sometimes see these represented in Chinese New Year decorations.
The lantern festival
The lantern festival marks the end of Chinese New Year. Celebrated on the 16th day of festivities at the full moon.
Chinese New Year is one of the biggest celebrations in Singapore’s polytheistic country, so it is a long weekend here for many. Or if you are teacher and lucky – a week off!
Gong Xi Fa Cai
wishing you a prosperous new year!
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