“LO HEI!!!” Yes, I have now learned how to speak Chinese…ha I wish!
Happy Chinese New Year!!!! Okay, so I’m a little late, 3 months late 😛 But I wanted to share a little about the Holiday which marks the turning of the lunar Calendar. Beginning on the 23rd, day of the 12th lunar month of the Chinese calendar and is celebrated ending with the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first calendar month. The first day of the New Year falls on the new moon between January 21st and February 20th. This past New Year Celebration (2017), began on January 28th and lasted until February 20th. Just like New Year’s Eve, the celebration begins the night before the New Year and this year that happened to land directly on my Birthday. So, I had to rethink my plans in treating myself to dinner out for a change when I found out the hard way that not even Subway is open for business on Chinese New Year :P. It’s a day to gather with your family in hopes that the New Year will bring you happiness, prosperity, wealth, and happiness. Traditionally, a festival to honor the great deities and ancestors of the past, it continues to hold much significance in China and has spread to many neighboring countries in South East Asia.
Traditional New Year Meal
Something that is traditionally done to celebrate the New Year is called “yu sheng,” or the prosperity toss. This questionable looking, but oh so delicious dish, consists of a variety of shredded fruits and veggies: carrots, white radishes, papaya slices, white sour ginger slices, red sweet ginger slices, pickled leek slices, china cucumber slices, brown and yellow melon strips, lime strips, and golden lemon slices. Topped off with ground peanuts, ground- fried sesame, pepper, cinnamon, and don’t forget the delicious crunchy Pork biscuits! Drizzled with a sweet plum sauce to finish it off. Seafood, of your choosing (typically salmon because it symbolizes abundance), is generally added but at home, we usually opt out of adding any raw fish. Trust me when I heard this wacky combination and took a glimpse of all these lovely ingredients I wasn’t the most the most enthusiastic about sticking my chopsticks in first. Which I have gotten excellent at using I might add ;P But hey, I’ll try anything once, and hey what’s not good when it’s covered in chopped peanuts?! So, I went for it..
OMG MOST DELICIOUS APPETIZER I’VE EVER HAD!!!! Sounds weird but tastes great! So, this oh so delicious dish is supposed to serve 8 and let’s just say it served my mom and me quite nicely for lunch hehe okay my dad had some too, but I wasn’t about to save any for anyone else 😛
It is actually quite an extensive process. First, you place your shredded carrots and white radishes (btw I recommend an Asian mango peeler-These things are the best invention since sliced bread!) in the center of your dish. Then you take the cups of the other ingredients and dump them along the outside, creating a colorfulcircular arrangement of questionable yumminess 😛 Then, drop on the peanuts, sesame seeds, spices, and lime juice. Then when everyone is ready, with chopsticks in hand, you literally grab a chunk and start tossing! Yes, this is a holiday in which it is socially acceptable to throw your food up in the air. The higher the toss, the luckier you get. This is where my Chinese speaking ability comes in, as you yell “LO HEI” and other “auspicious: words in hopes of bringing in the luck for the New Year. Okay, so we might have gotten a little carried away with the tossing but what’s Yu Sheng without a messy kitchen 😛 All and all we like to have fun and make the most of our cultural adventures 🙂 Oh and to my delight, my dear friend informed me, you must have Yu Sheng eight times because the number eight is very lucky in Chinese tradition…YES! More you sang for me, please!
What’s Dinner without a show?
The next tradition of Chinese New Year is something known as the Lion dance. The individuals who perform this dance have to practice from a young age performing every move so precisely it’s amazing they don’t forget anything! I will say, it was kind of funny to learn that when you see one lion dance, you have literally seen them all because it is performed exactly the same no matter where it takes place or who the performers are. Well, at least that’s how it is here in Singapore. It’s exactly the same step by step. So I will say after, I don’t know, my third lion dance, when I heard the whacking of symbols begin I started to drift away from the gathering crowd 😛 However, I do enjoy seeing at least one every year.
My first Lion dance I witnessed at our own “residence” where everything must happen correctly from the minute the dance begins, which is also very precise, to when it ends, and the fragrance from freshly peeled oranges fills the air. The dance starts with the beating of symbols and drums which literally doesn’t stop until the entire routine is over…..it honestly doesn’t stop, and neither does the ringing in your ears after. During the dance the Lions grab a head of lettuce hanging from the entrance of either a store, residence, hotel, etc. and tossing it up into the air as a symbol of luck. They then take the very accurately placed oranges and throw then into the audience all while leaving behind a symbol of prosperity or lucky number for the shop/ residence owner consisting of peeled oranges. The dance itself is very unique and very cool to witness first hand.
This past Chinese New Year I had the opportunity to welcome the New Year at the Oldest
Chinese Temple in Singapore, known as the Tianfu Temple. Translated into the “Palace of Heavenly Happiness,” the temple is a dedication to the deity Mazu, a medieval Fujian teenager, known as the Chinese sea goddess.
Its beautiful architectural style is modeled from the old Fijian style buildings and is beautifully decorated with colorful tiles, lacquered wood, and a variety of figures, which hold strong symbolic meaning to the traditional Chinese culture.
I highly recommend taking a stop by there yourself to see one of the last this beautiful national monument, which received an honorable mention for the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards Cultural Heritage Convention in 2001 after its renovation was completed in 2001. But remember, do not enter through the central passageway, for its bad luck as the center door is saved for special religious figures.
How to get there: It’s about a 3-minute walk from the Telok Ayer MRT located at 158 Telok Ayer St. If you really want to make a trip out of it, a little further down Central Blvd is on 18 Raffles Quay is the famous Lau Pa Sat Hawker. Try some local eats and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the Central City District.
In the Heart of Chinatown
In case you were wondering this past year was the year of the Roaster and I decided to finally make a trip down to Chinatown to witness the lights I’ had heard so much about.
It’s a fun place to walk around and see the streets light up at night, but I don’t recommend on going right on New Year’s Eve. The streets stay light during the entire month of the celebration so you will have plenty of time to get a glimpse.
Thought I would also practice my photography skills a little and just enjoyed the old Chinatown streets, which don’t change much during the holidays but nonetheless still neat to see and take in the architectural culture.