Chinese New Year is around the corner once again! If you get invited to a friend's house for a CNY gathering, here's what you can expect!
Everyone sits around a table with 2 pots of soup sitting on a portable electric stove. Plates of raw food surround the pots and you basically throw in whatever you feel like having. There are ladles to scoop food in and out of the pot, but usually people just use their own pair of chopsticks to do it as well. Might be yucky for some but we guess it kind of makes everyone feel more like family. Lol~ (Any bacteria dies in the hot soup anyway right?)
When the food runs out, the host normally refills the raw food and you feel like you're having a buffet because the food never seems to run out.
Click here to watch how a home-cooked reunion meal is prepared!
2. Watching movies together on TV
Somehow it seems like the same movies are screened on free-to-air TV every year, but people still enjoy them - especially the evergreen slapstick Stephen Chow or kick-ass Jackie Chan movies. People bond over munching CNY snacks and watching a movie together. Other than movies, the typical programmes aired are CNY countdown events from Taiwan or China and music award ceremonies.
4. Catching up (aka questioning)
For most, visiting friends and relatives is a yearly affair - during CNY, so it's a time to catch up. The older relatives tend to ask the same set of questions:
- If you are single: Do you have a boyfriend yet? (Reply: No.) Why not? You are so handsome/pretty. Don't have too high expectations.
- If you are attached: So when are you getting married? (Reply: We are just taking things slow.) Quickly get married I can't wait to attend your wedding.
- If you are married: No children yet? (Reply: Maybe in the next few years.) Why wait so long you have been married for some time already.
- If you have kids: Are you planning to have another one? (Reply: We're still thinking about it.) It's always good to have more kids.
Be prepared with the right answers! The best response when you don't know how to respond? Just nod, smile and agree.
Watch us answer typical questions asked during CNY!
5. Giving/Receiving ang pows (red packets)
If you are single, bring a couple of mandarin oranges. You will need to give two (good things come in pairs!) mandarin oranges to those married and older than you and say a word of blessing, such as good health, prosperity or success to them in the new year. If you are married, prepare some cash with you spouse in ang pows and distribute them to both the married and unmarried. If you are giving an ang pow to someone older and important (like your mother-in-law :D), then give two oranges as well and wish them well for the new year. If you are not Chinese, you don't have feel obligated to give ang pows especially when people give you one. :) There is no rule as to how much to give, except that the amount should be an even number. The closer you are to certain relatives and friends, the more people tend to give. The winners: Kids.
6. Playing with sparkles
Firecrackers are banned in Singapore, so sparkle sticks are the best you can get in this land. You can buy sparkles from stores selling miscellaneous items in the housing estates or from night markets (a huge night market is open in Chinatown 3 weeks before CNY). The kids play outdoors in the playgrounds or in the yard.
Click here to watch our visit to Chinatown during CNY!
This is why people never hungry and always put on weight over CNY. *Yikes*
Happy new year everyone! HUAT ah~!
YU SHENG | LO HEI
Yu Sheng is a colourful dish comprising of raw fish (Yu Sheng 鱼生) (salmon more often than not), grated carrots, radish, red pepper, jellyfish, sesame seeds, crushed peanuts, pomelo, dried orange peel, crackers and a handful of condiments including five spice powder, plum sauce and vinegar.
The words "abundance" (Yu 余) and "increase" (Sheng 升) sound the same as the name of the dish, thereby showing its significance. It is also known as Lo Hei (Cantonese for 捞起) which means to lift
Yu Sheng was formally created and made popular in Singapore in the 1960s, and is a variation of several Chinese dialect dishes involving raw fish and vegetables. It is a Chinese New Year dish unique to Singapore and Malaysia.
Just before the tossing of the Yu Sheng, the condiments are scattered over the dish and the person doing it would pronounce blessings of prosperity, increase and abundance for the new year. Everyone then gathers around the huge plate with a pair of chopsticks in hand (at some restaurants, a long pair of approximately 15-inch chopsticks is provided) and the tossing begins!
It is a noisy affair as people speak out blessings for the new year as they toss the Yu Sheng. The belief is that the higher you toss, the better it is. The resultant taste of the Yu Sheng is mainly sweet with a tinge of sour and a crunchy texture.
The tossing of the Yu Sheng can be done anytime over the the 15 days of the Lunar New Year celebrations. People normally order this in restaurants while having a meal with family, friends or business associates. Some families prepare this at home, or purchase a ready made set from the supermarket, so if you get a chance to visit a Singaporean home during this festive time, do Lo Hei with them!
*Chinatown is a must-visit during CNY. Take a glimpse with us!
The way a toast is proposed in a Chinese banquet setting (company dinners, family reunion means and especially during wedding dinners when 3 toasts are proposed to the newly weds) in Singapore is a noisy but fun affair. "Yum seng" is a phrase in Cantonese and literally means to drink to victory. It is the equivalent to "Bottoms up!" or "Cheers!".
How to participate in a "Yum Seng":
1. Stand up.
2. Have a beverage in hand, preferably wine or beer.
3. Take a deep breath.
4. Go "Yuuuuuuuuuuuuu....." and hold it for as long and loud as you can.
5. Take the cue from the emcee or from someone at the same table who would usually give some indication to end the toast, and go "....uum seng!".
This can be fun because people at some tables try to do their "Yum sengs" louder than the rest and this can get a little competitive.
Chinatown is a must-visit when you are in Singapore during the CNY period. Some of the roads will be closed and makeshift stalls are set up to create a night market for vendors to sell CNY wares such as snacks and decorative items. The roads in the area are also decorated and lit up with festive lights for the celebrations. Not all stalls are open for business in the daytime so it is advisable to visit at night.
*Tip: The eve of CNY is the last day of business for most shops at Chinatown, before they take a break of 2 (public vacations) to 7 days. So don't visit during CNY itself! To get here, simply take the MRT and alight at Chinatown MRT station.
Things to buy
The atmosphere is bustling with crowds shopping to prepare for the new year celebrations. The commonly sold items at the night market are CNY goodies like pineapple tarts and kueh bangkit, decorative items like couplets, plants such as willows and mini orange potted plans and in recent years, and stalls selling Taiwanese jelly seem to have replaced stalls selling pick and mix candy/chocolate we used to see.
Business at the regular shops along the shop houses in Chinatown picks up during this period as well with many shops selling dried foods (mushrooms, fish maw etc.) and Bak Kwa (barbecued pork). The dried foods are ingredients used to prepare for reunion dinner (takes place on the eve of the first day of the lunar new year).
RED is in!
It is believed that a mythical creature known as the Nian would appear on the first day of the new year to devour and destroy. Overtime, the villagers realise that anything red in colour could ward off the Nian, thus the significance of the colour red during CNY.
People today hang couplets and decorative items all in red on their doors and in the house to celebrate.
The zodiac cycle comprises 12 animals - rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. The story goes that the Jade Emperor held a race for the animal kingdom and the calendar years would then be allocated based on the order of the race results. With 2013 being the year of the snake, it means simply, that those who are 12, 24, 36 (and so on) of age this year were born in the year of the snake. This explains the many snake related images on decorative items you see this year.
This is tied also to Feng Shui and those who practice it believe there are certain character or personality traits that distinguish people according to their zodiac sign, along with dos and don'ts for the year.