It really has been fabulous emerging ourselves and joining in the celebrations of our first Chinese New Year. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed the ongoing celebrations and festivities and food. Lots of food. Boy of boy do Singaporeans love their food! We’ve eaten pineapple tarts (far too many to be considered in any way healthy!), love letters (both sweet and spicy), tarts, cakes, sweets, biscuits, soups, meals and desserts. Gosh it has been fabulous feasting!
So what did we do? A day by day guide follows.
Tuesday 5th February: Spring Festival (also known as Day 1)
The original name for this day was Yuán Dàn,Yuan meaning “the beginning.” (Yuan Dan is now used to refer to the New Year of the solar calendar.)
Firecrackers and fireworks are used to start off a day of greetings and blessings between neighbours. As these are both banned in Singapore, only scheduled and organised events can have firework displays. This was at the River HongBau at Marina Bay. There seems to be an international firework competition running with more fireworks from different countries this weekend too.
There are no specific activities other than celebrating the New Year. Families are spending time together. It is a time to honour the older generations.
In addition to food from last night people also celebrate with Tu Su wine. This relates back to the belief that lighting fires and using knives on New Year’s Day brings bad luck, hence why all food is cooked beforehand.
Wearing red, which corresponds with fire, is thought to bring joy and good fortune.
It is forbidden to sweep or clean on this day as it is believed good fortune will be swept away. (Handy if you don’t want to do any chores!)
What did we do?
We headed out to see the closed and quiet malls and see a film. 90% of the shops and food outlets were shut up. It was eerily quiet. Those families who had ventured out gathered in the few hawker stalls that were open. We saw a lot of people wearing red today, in fact I would estimate 1/3 of people we saw were wearing red.
It was a quiet day after the loud craziness of last night. Tomorrow is another day of festivities.
Wednesday 6th February: To the in-law’s (Day 2)
On this day, a married daughter must bring her husband and children to her parent’s home. She must bring a gift bag of crackers and candies, which her mother will divide between neighbors. This simple gift shows that “it’s the thought that counts” and expresses the daughter’s longing for her hometown.
Lunch is eaten together and the daughter should return to her husband’s home before dinner.
What did we do?
We were invited to a friends house along with the rest of our church group. I took 2 mandarins, lots of Hong baos and home baked blueberry muffins to share.
We gave the hosts the mandarins and the children the Hong baos. The muffins were welcomed by everyone and devoured. We were given a plat of every snack available to try as this was out first CNY. Three different types of pineapple tarts and a whole selection of different cakes, biscuits and tarts.
I hadn’t finished eating this huge selection when we were ushered to the table to have Laksa and Beef Rendang. Then we tried the delicious Bak Kwa – oh my goodness what a delightful discovery! We were stuffed within 30 minutes of arriving.
Thankfully more and more people arrived to take our place at the table otherwise I think we might have had to be carried out! It was so lovely to be treated in such a way with everyone there making us feel so very welcome and ensuring we were having a lovely time and explaining traditions and customs to us. It was simply fabulous.
Thursday 7th February: Day of the Rat (Day 3)
Back to work day for most people who haven’t travelled away to spend time with family. Rez was back at work so Zahra and I headed off for a day at the zoo with her school friends. Well I say that, they went off and did their own thing and I just checked up on them a few times.
The zoo was decorated for CNY with each animal habitat in the Chinese horoscope having a display board explaining about that. There were decorations around the Pig enclosures for Year of the Pig and there was a Lion Dance at the zoo entrance too.
I enjoyed following the feeding trail and seeing lots of animals being fed. Great exercise to walk off the food from the day before – I walked 8km in total. It rained at 5pm and we got completely soaked but it was a refreshing change from the searing heat.
According to folktales this is the day that rats marry. I don’t know what the significance of that is though. (More to discover in future.)
Friday 8th February: Day of the Sheep (Day 4)
We visited our neighbours in the evening (with a friend who speaks Mandarin) and gave out two mandarins to those that were in ( a lot were out celebrating). We met some lovely neighbours, some of whom invited us in and gave us lots of treats to try.
In Chinese mythology, the world was created by Nǚ Wā and sheep were created on the 4th day.
Saturday 9th February: Break Five (Day 5)
Traditionally after praying to the god of wealth, markets and stores are able to open again. Women can also go out and give New Year blessings. Dumplings are also traditionally eaten today.
What did we do?
Well I was back at Bible College for the start of another module, Rez went flying his drone with friends and Zahra went to special church youth group meal at lunchtime. We did eat dumplings though.
Sunday 10th February: Day of the Horse (Day 6)
Church and rest for us after a busy week of festivities. In Chinese mythology, Nu Wa created the horse on the 6th day.
Monday 11th February: Day of the Human (Day 7)
Everyone was back at work. Those who had travelled to see family returned.
In Chinese mythology, on the 7th day, humans were created by Nu Wa. Celebrations for the Day of Humans, originate from the Han dynasty.
Tuesday 12th February: Day of the Millet (Day 8)
According to legends, this is the millet grain’s birthday. Agriculture was the basis of ancient Chinese society and people highly valued the grain.
Wednesday 13th February: Providence Health (Day 9)
This is the birthday of the highest god, the Jade Emperor (玉皇大帝—yù huáng dà dì). In Daoism, he is the sovereign of the universe and is the ultimate representation of “sky.”
Thursday 14th February: Stone Festival (Day 10)
Ten (十—shí) has the same pronunciation as rock (石). Therefore, this is the birthday of the Rock.
Friday 15th February 15th: Son-in-law Day (Day 11)
Fathers will invite their daughters and son-in-law’s to dinner on this day.
we don’t have a son in law so we went to the Rainforest Luminar light show at Singapore Zoo instead.
We’re now entering the period of the Lantern Festival and if the celebrations are anything to go by so far we are in for a treat. Day 12 starts with the Chingay Parade. More to come on that.