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Top 6 Essentials and TIPS For Chinese (Goat) New Year in Singapore

1. Spring Clean, Decorations & Lion Dance

2. Get a NEW(ish) Outfit

3. Get a Haircut

4. The Reunion Dinner

5. Eating New Year Snacks

6. It WAS All About The Ang Paos a.k.a Red Packets

Traditional New Year TIPS/ Superstitions

Travel TIPS: Sights & Sounds

Today is the fourth day of Chinese (Lunar) New Year. And for those who are wondering and are curious about how Singaporeans (or at least, my family and I) prepare for, and what we do during Chinese New Year, well this is the right article for you.

This is the year of the Goat, hence those born in 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979 etc. have their Chinese Zodiac sign to be Goat. The Chinese Zodiac is a recurring cycle of 12 years.

If you are interested in how the Chinese Zodiac come about and how the order of the animals are arranged, visit: http://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-zodiac/story.asp for an intriguing read.

There are a few variations to the story, and this is not what I was told by my Mum; who heard it as a kid from her uncle, but the idea and story plot is roughly the same.

Depending on how much you believe in the Zodiac sign, those born in the year of the Goat are generally polite, kind, and compassionate- basically attributes of a goat, when it is not terrorise that is. 😀

If you are interested in what are the lucky numbers, colours, etc. for those born in the year of the goat, visit: http://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/social_customs/zodiac/sheep.htm.

Hey, maybe this is the year you win the lottery? 😛

Here is a list of things and Traditional TIPS I find essential to my family and I during Chinese New Year, or whilst growing up. Whether this list is a good representation of the majority of Singaporeans or anyone around the world who celebrates Chinese New Year… Well… I leave the judgement to you.

So here goes.

 

1. Spring Clean, Decorations & Lion Dance

To many Chinese household in Singapore, spring cleaning and hanging of Chinese New Year decorations marks the start of  the preparation towards the New Year. According to my Mum, this is usually done about a month(ish) prior.

My family is rather, how should I put it… The Procrastinators? We are pretty last- minute in things like these. Haha…!

My Mum would clean the house and call out to us kids to help out. And usually to no avail; especially the boys- they will never budge.

I don’t remember about last year, and I cannot vouch for the subsequent years in the future, but this year, I did helped out a teeny tiny bit, after my Mum’s perpetual earnest  implore for help in the cleaning and decorations.

The reason why the general households here are serious about spring cleaning is due to the believe that when cleaning, we are ‘cleaning’ away any bad luck residue in the house, and welcoming good luck into the family for the year ahead.

My mum always say, “Even if it’s not a special occasion like New Year or Christmas, we should also keep the house clean and tidy, no?”

In response to her, I have no comments there. 😛

On a more serious note, there should not be any form of sweeping on the day of Chinese New Year.

Why?

Well… Scroll to the second last section of this article on ‘Traditional New Year TIPS/ Superstitions’; all will be explained there

New Year decorations are usually in the colour red, pink, yellow, and gold. Mainly red.

Decorations like the display firecrackers, lanterns, and the ginormous display pineapples,  are in red. The Chinese New Year flowers however, the Plum Blossoms and Peach Blossoms, are in pastel pink. Super cute flowers in a nice vase as a table centre piece.

Basically, it’s the time of the year where red (or shades of red) is the new norm. #happycolours

Red symbolises good luck, while yellow and gold are traditionally used in regal services. As such the latter colours are emblems of wealth and happiness.

Red is also a salient colour, hence it is believed to be able to drive the bad luck and ill fortune away.

According to a Chinese myth, the Nian (which is a beast- like creature) attacked villagers during the period of Chinese New Year. Since the Nian’s weaknesses were loud noises and the colour red, villagers would don on this prominent colour and made loads of noise using drums, firecrackers, empty plates and bowls to ward off the evilness.

In modern day context, it has now become a tradition to have lion dance troupes invited to houses, companies and even schools or local community centres to perform. During such performances, heavy drumming can be heard blocks away as a symbol to chase off the Nian, and bring in prosperity.

As a kid, I was extremely afraid of the lion dance performances and their loud drumming. I recall weeping and hiding behind my grandmother one night while strolling pass a community centre with my brother.

Those dances scared the daylights out of me. I actually thought the ‘dragon’- like- thing was going to eat me or something. Yup, a little wimpy as a child, it’s hilarious. No wonder my brother was in fits of laughter as he watched me cried myself silly in my grandmother’s warmth embrace. Haha…!

 

2. Get a NEW(ish) Outfit

To many, this is the best excuse to go on a shopping spree; taking it to the streets or online.

As for me, I do not have the habit of wearing something brand new on New Year’s day. As long as it is NEW(ish), I’m cool. My definition of ‘NEW(ish)’ would be outfits that I have worn probably a couple of times? As long as it looks presentable, it’s all alright. Oh, also, outfits (not worn) that were bought ancient months ago counts too, DUH… 😀

My outfit for Chinese New Year this year, fits the bill perfectly in the latter part of the definition. This cotton pasley dress from Valleygirl was bought last year. Seeing it hung on the rack required a few seconds to contemplate even trying it on.

It was the pasley and the patches of pink peach blossoms that caught my eye, as I instantly link the prints to Chinese New Year. After slipping it on in the dresser, I knew right away I had to get it. Pronto.

I love cotton material clothes, so soft and comfy, it doesn’t feel too sticky even after a long day’s wear under Singapore’s humid climate.

However, there is just ONE teeny tiny criteria one must follow when picking out an outfit. No black please.

Why?

Well… Scroll to the second last section of this article on ‘Traditional New Year TIPS/ Superstitions’; all will be explained there.

Though this criteria is not that all adamant in some families, but in mine, my mother will unleash if I ever wear dark and dull colours, yet alone black- don’t even think about it.

So this dress from Valleygirl was definitely a thumbs up from my Mum. #mumapproveddress

I remember one year, years back, I wore some shade of grey, with a tinge of prints in yellow and pink, she unleashed. Oh man… We do not wanna’ go there.

On the flip side, my Mum is all cool for having accessories in black. Shoes and bags, she’s fine.

 

3. Get a Haircut

Hair salons are the busiest during this festive season. Ladies, especially, booked to get their hair done weeks prior; all having the aim to look fresh and well groomed for the big day during Chinese New Year.

So mentioning that my family are The Procrastinators right?

Well… My Mum and I got our hair done on the night before the eve of Chinese New Year. Yup, that’s how last-minute we were.

And, acting on impulse once more, I chopped off whatever inch of hair I had to be able tie it up. So right now, my hair is so short, I kinda, sort of, maybe, think I may have acted too rashly. Haha…

Also note that all hair cuts should be done BEFORE Chinese New Year.

Why?

Well… Scroll to the second last section of this article on ‘Traditional New Year TIPS/ Superstitions’; all will be explained there.

 

4. The Reunion Dinner

Reunion dinner to me as a kid growing up, is a time when we would head down to my grandmother’s place and have a delectable feast of steamboat.

A steamboat dinner is basically having raw meat, seafood, vegetables, fish balls, crab flavoured sticks, alongside canned mushrooms, abalone, clams etc. on the table, with a big metal pot (containing soup of your choice) on top of a portable electrical stove/cooker as the centre piece.

And what you do is to basically just toss in all the raw food into the hot soup (at intervals), and cook it! Pretty simple and fun, especially for curious kids; since they love to play cooking and all.

You could have soup and all the cooked food with rice, noodles or bee hoon (rice vermicelli). Of course the sambal belacan chilli is definitely a must. It goes so well with the rice or bee hoon. It’s an amazing explosion in the mouth. Yum Yum!

In my family, instead of using the modern electrical cooker, we use the portable gas stove, where in order to work the machine, my Dad had to insert in a bottle of butane gas. Really old school.

I remember my grandmother would fry bee hoon for us, so we would have the luxury of choice. Rice or bee hoon, you pick! Definitely bee hoon for me. Her fried bee hoon is pretty awesome I must say. Love it!

So why is it a tradition for us to have steamboat? Why not eat something else?

Steamboat requires cooking to be done on the spot. There is no way one can fill up his plate with food and head to the sofa to watch The Big Bang Theory, or head to his laptop and play games while eating. You need to be around the table.

Hence, this sort of creates an environment for all to really sit down on this 1 special night on Chinese New Year’s Eve to have a decent meal together; hence the word ‘Reunion’. It’s something really exceptional to me.

This year however, was different. We did not head down to my grandmother’s place for a steamboat feast. Instead we booked a restaurant in town to have our gathering. We had it at Red House (Address: 68 Prinsep Street, Singapore 188661). It was an eight course Chinese dinner with steamed Goby fish, tiger prawns, braised duck etc.

Honestly, steamboat at grandma’s beats tiger prawns any time.

 

5. Eating New Year Snacks

Chinese New Year, is a Fatstival.

It is a time of feasting on good meals with family and friends, and also a time when you can get to visit relatives at their homes and eat New Year snacks while you’re at it!

It’s not every day you get to sink your teeth into the moist, soft buttery pineapple tarts, or the sweet, tender almond peanut sugar cookies or the hard- to-miss white sugary Kuey Bankit, or the king of all New Year snacks- Bak Kwa; a savoury sweet barbecued pork jerky so mouth-watering that once you had one, you have to finish the entire box. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya…

So I cannot resist the urge to stop eating those delish little treats- so small, but totally deadly. Not only are they deadly for weight- conscious people (e.g. 1 teeny tiny pineapple tart = 82 calories), they are deadly to the throat as well. #noselfcontrol

About a month prior to Chinese New Year, my Dad bought back one of my favourite New Year treats- sambal shrimp rolls. Luckily he didn’t buy pineapple tarts, or that will be gone before Chinese New Year as well.

Don’t judge, pineapple tarts and sambal shrimp rolls are my 2 weaknesses. Love them, and hate them after.

I don’t know about other households, but we do not have the rule that says we cannot eat New Year treats before New Year.

So the bottle of Sambal Shrimp Rolls was opened and my little brother and I probably finished the entire bottle, in a week or so. And we both got real sick. Yup. So small and delish, but totally deadly.

I was on medical leave for the next week. Fever could go down, my throat was in bad shape, and I was coughing like mad, probably vomited a couple. We both definitely got lashed by Mummy Dearest for not drinking enough and being a glutton. Haha…!

Even up to now, my health isn’t completely 100%. My throat still hurts a little, but having no self-control, I still nibble on the snacks as I go from one house visit to the next.

Hey, when people offer you delish snacks, it’s impolite to reject their good intentions right? But this year, I am selective in my nibbling. I do not want to be on medical leave for another week again.

 

6. It WAS All About The Ang Paos a.k.a Red Packets

Chinese New Year is a time to visit relatives and friends near and far. It’s definitely a great time to catch up with friends whom you seldom see. And during those visitations, common traditional exchanges will be seen.

(a) Exchange of luck

Upon entering the home of the hosts, the guests will usually wish the hosts good luck, fortune, health, etc. and in the process, give 2 mandarin oranges to them. The act of giving the oranges is a gesture of giving luck and wealth to the hosts. Hence, in exchange, the hosts will give 2 mandarin oranges back to the guest.

(b) Giving/ Receiving Ang Paos

Ang Paos usually come in the colour red. However, pink, yellow and gold are sometimes seen as well.

If you are married, this is a tradition you cannot run away from. Giving red packets (with money inside, usually in EVEN amounts) to kids, teenagers, and basically anyone not yet married. In this process, the receiver would wish the giver good luck, fortune, health, etc.

I remember my Mum would teach us as kids on what to say to the elders, and we would recite simple mandarin phrases to them when the elders gave us the Ang Paos.

Up till today, we are still struggling with the simple phrases (we don’t use such phrases on a daily basis, so pardon us :P), and the boys would just invent funny rhyming Chinese phrases along the way; some totally makes no sense. -.-‘

I recall as kids, my brother and I would be so excited about the Ang Paos we collected. And upon arriving home, we would immediately count all the money we had received for that day of home visitations. And, at the end of it all, we would see who received more. Most of the time my brother will have more than I, as he’s the eldest. What a bummer.

There was one year, ancient years ago, when we both gotten the same amount, but my little brother had a few dollars more than us. Apparently, his cute toddler face got him an extra Ang Pao. He was very proud of himself that night. Haha…

In recent years, collection of Ang Paos wasn’t as exciting as when we were younger. I mean, we were happy to receive the Ang Paos, just not as hysterical as before.

Guess, it WAS all about the Ang Paos as a kid, but not now.

Now… it’s probably all about the New Year snacks. Haha!

 

Traditional New Year TIPS/ Superstitions

Traditional TIP #1: Sweeping during Chinese New Year?

Note that there should NOT be any form of spring cleaning done on the actual day of Chinese New Year. That’s a BIG NO-NO! I remember as a kid, my Mum would remind us not use a broom to sweep the floor during the day Chinese New Year as it will sweep away the luck and good fortune. I remember asking her about the use of the vacuum cleaner, and she mentioned, apparently using the vacuum cleaner and mopping is still alright? Haha…! Guess we’re all not that stringent in this traditional custom?

Traditional TIP #2: Donning on black during Chinese New Year?

Black is usually associated with mourning. Hence, on a joyous occasion, one should avoid such a colour tone. Don on bright colours to welcome the festive cheer.

Wearing black also shows that one has no respect for the host during home visitations. It may seem like you are bringing bad luck to the host.

So yeah… No black, ya?

Traditional TIP #3: Cutting hair during Chinese New Year?

People usually get their hair in tiptop condition before the New Year. And if you really need a haircut, you should do it after the New Year.

The saying goes, if you cut your hair during Chinese New Year, it is considered bad luck.  This is due to the pronunciation of the word ‘hair’ in mandarin, which is pronounce as ‘发’ (fa) which is homonymic to the word ‘prosperity’ in mandarin.

In a nutshell, cutting your hair is like ‘cutting your prosperity’. Hence, people deem that as bad luck.

BAM! So now we know…

Traditional TIP #4: Accidental breaking of glass during Chinese New Year?

I’m sure you have heard that if you break a mirror you get 7 years of bad luck. Well, likewise for glass of any sort, try your best not to break them within these 15 days of Chinese New Year.

However, when accidents happen, it’s just unavoidable- Not like we love going around breaking glass for no apparent reason right?

So when this happens, say something good to shroud the unavoidable.

Hey, make the best out of a ‘bad’ situation right? Think positive!

My grandmother told my Mum that when this happens just shout,” 落 地 开 花   富 贵 荣 华” (luò dì kāi huā   fù guì róng huá)!

It will clear away the omen. 😀

There are so many traditions and superstitions (I am sure there are more which I may have never heard of before), you cannot possibly adhere to all of them religiously. Things like no washing of hair during the first day of Chinese New Year (that’s a big No No for me), or being vegetarian during the first day of Chinese New Year (our family doesn’t follow this) etc.

I reckon that we should just follow the traditions our family has already set precedent. This defines us all as Chinese households, yet within each household there could have a tinge of difference in our traditions and customs – SAME but DIFFERENT in subtle ways.

 

Travel TIPS: Sights & Sounds

Wondering what activities to do during the long New Year’s break?

Well… For those who do not celebrate Chinese New Year, or those in Singapore on a short vacation, then you are in great luck!

There are really quite a lot of happening events held in place to spread the festive cheer! And some of these events are held annually.

Those who do celebrate Chinese New Year can also take a stroll to these places with your family and friends. It can be memorable as well. We can all be a tourist in our own country, why not? I am sure there are bound to have a few instagram-worthy shots to take!

(a) Chinatown

Event

Location Date, Time Admission Fee
Chinatown Street Light Up Pagoda Street

New Bridge Road

Eu Tong Sen Street

Nearest Train Station: Chinatown

Feb 21, 19 00 – 02 00

Feb 22 – Feb 26, 19 00 – 00 00

Feb 27 – Feb 28, 19 00 – 02 00

FOC

The timings for the street light up in March are roughly the same as in February.

http://www.eventfinda.sg/2015/chinatown-street-light-up/singapore/chinatown

I don’t know about you, but when I think of Chinese New Year, I think of the hordes of people all doing their intense shopping in preparation for the New Year. In addition, I think of the massive decorations put up along the streets of Chinatown. It’s Red Red Red all over. The hanging of bright red lanterns and the blast of Chinese New Year songs can really light up the mood of anyone.

Since this is the year of the Goat, massive goat structures were put up near Hotel 81, along New Bridge Road. This is a great hot spot for many to take shots with. And it’s especially awe-worthy at night when everywhere is all lighted up with pretty fairy lights and lanterns!

(b) The Float @ Marina Bay- Singapore River Hongbao

The Singapore River Hongbao is an annual event held at the iconic Floating Platform @ Marina Bay. This mega event ushers in the New Year with all things Chinese. A vibrant festival that assures locals and tourists the best Chinese cultural experience here in Singapore. With live entertainment, and local favourite street foods (e.g. Bak Kut Teh (Herbal Pork Bone Soup)), this is definitely the place to be during Chinese New Year!

For a mind-blowing New Year experience, and if you don’t mind the crowd, head on down during its Opening Night (2 days before Chinese New Year), or attend the Chinese New Year Countdown Party! Fireworks display could also be seen during these 2 days!

Event #1

Location Date, Time Admission Fee
Lantern Display and God of Fortune 20 Raffles Avenue

Nearest Train Station:

Promenade

Personal TIP?

If you are not pressed for time, alight at City Hall station and walk through CityLink Mall- Singapore’s first underground mall, with lots of shopping options along the way. This leads you to The Float as well, just follow the signage! 🙂

 

Feb 21 – Feb 28, 14 00 – 23 00

FOC

In my opinion, this event is best visited at night- when all the lanterns are glistening, together with the 18- meter tall God of Fortune. More than 60 ensorcelling lanterns at this event were meticulously hand-crafted by professional craftsmen on- site. Not to mention, the twelve Zodiac animals are on display as well.

It’s imperatively always much livelier at night for such events!

Event #2

Location Date, Time Admission Fee
Tightrope Walking by Guinness World Record Holders 20 Raffles Avenue

Nearest Train Station:

Promenade

Feb 21, 19 15

Feb 21, 21 15

Feb 22, 19 15

Feb 22, 21 15

FOC

The gravity-defying stunt by 2 acrobats from The Acrobatic Troupe of Xin Jiang, China will make you heart skip several beats in fear for their safety. It is definitely worth a head down to witness their incredible skills and bravery!

Event #3

Location Date, Time Admission Fee
Dance Performance by Xin Jiang & Taiwan Troupes 20 Raffles Avenue

Nearest Train Station:

Promenade

Feb 21 – Feb 22, 19 45

FOC

There is seriously way too much going on along Singapore River. And all these events starts just 2 days before the Chinese New Year! So if you missed some events this year, fret not, there’s always Singapore River Hongbao 2016 to usher in the year of the Monkey!

(c) F1 Pit Building (Next to the Singapore Flyer)

Event

Location Date, Time Admission Fee
Chingay 2015 1 Republic Boulevard

Singapore 038975

 

Nearest Train Station:

Promenade

Feb 27 – Feb 28, 20 00

Feb 27

Category 1: SGD $50

Category 2: SGD $40

Category 3: SGD $28.50

Feb 28

Category 1: SGD $60

Category 2: SGD $50

Category 3: SGD $28.50

https://chingay.org.sg/chingay2015/ticketing-details

This is grandest parade in Singapore, as part of the Chinese New Year celebration. Since it’s Singapore’s 50th Birthday (SG 50), the theme for this year’s parade is ‘We Love SG’. It is said to be the biggest most spectacular parade ever organised with 11k performers from different cultures, and many jaw-dropping displays of flowers made out of used plastic bags- definitely environmental conscious! #goinggreen

Hope you now have a better insight on how Chinese New Year is celebrated here in Singapore (or at least celebrated by my family), the DOs (Traditions) and DON’Ts (Superstitions), and the Sights & Sounds during this festive period!

For those who celebrates Chinese New Year, how did you spend your first few days of it? If I did miss out on any essential do let me know; love to hear it! 😀

Wishing you a Happy and Blessed Goat’s Year 2015.

Remember to cherish your family and friends.

Dee

2 Comments

  • Jacky

    / Reply

    Hi, I like your bright cheery photos!

    • acaciadee

      / Reply

      Hi! Thank you! You are too kind! You have an awesome blog as well! Content that is so close to the heart! Love it! 😀

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