There are a lot of traditions that go along with Chinese New Year. Like, really a lot. Maybe it just seems like a lot to me because they're all new, but it seems like western holidays such as Christmas are much simpler. Here, in no particular order, are some of the traditions that I've learned about CNY. Cleaning should be done before the new year, as cleaning in the first days of the new year is seen as "sweeping out the good luck". In the spirit of consumerism, it's good to buy new things before the new year, especially new housewares or clothes that you can show off during the holidays. It's best if the new clothes are red, as red represents prosperity in Chinese culture. These new clothes can be shown off during they many visits that you must make to extended family and friends during the first two weeks of the new year. It's also a good idea to bring gifts when you go on these visits. Gifts are always given in an even number - odd numbers are considered unlucky. The number four is especially bad because it sounds like the Mandarin word for "death"! The number eight is especially lucky because it sounds like the words for "prosper" or "wealth". Married people also give their unmarried family members or friends hong bao, which are red envelopes containing cash.
What do these visits consist of? From what I can gather, mostly eating. Mandarin oranges are a popular item, because they look like gold coins. A popular dish here is called "yu sheng", which means "raw fish". Apparently it is not found in China, only Singapore and Malaysia. Yu sheng is a salad of raw fish with lots of vegetables and random seasonings. Each ingredient has a special meaning. Once the salad is assembled, all the guests begin to toss the salad with chopsticks, while repeating aloud their wishes for a prosperous and happy new year. The height of the tossing indicates the degree to which the wishes will be fulfilled, so guests are expected to toss the salad very high! Sounds like a messy process. Finally, there are a lot of desserts to eat. All the stores in Chinatown have been selling lots of little cookies - however most of the ones that I have tried taste quite dry and flavorless to me. Pineapple and egg tarts are also popular. Most popular, though, are Taiwanese mochi products. There are many different varieties of these products - from the typical mochi with a soft rice flour shell with filling in the middle (peanut, green tea, red bean, yam, etc) to "mochi jellies" that are pretty much just firm jello with fruit in the middle. These are delicious! I am definitely going to miss their presence in the stores after the new year season is over.
On Saturday night, I met up with a couple of my friends to check out the CNY celebrations that were taking place down by the Singapore riverfront. There was a huge carnival with rides, food, and lots of entertainment. There was a large area with lots of animatronic, light-up animals displays. There was a prominent tiger display, since this year is the year of the tiger.
There were all sorts of other crazy statues and displays, like this peacock,
There was also this dragon, who was made entirely out of sugar!
Why does this panda have two other pandas strapped to the back of it's bicycle? Very meta.
Well, a happy Chinese New Year and Gong Xi Fa Cai to all! Also, happy Valentine's Day, that other, far lamer, holiday that also happened over the weekend. Oh yeah, and President's Day.