Adventures in Singapore – February 2016

Well…another month has come and gone.  I can’t believe it’s March already.  February was a fabulous, fun-filled month – and February is ALL about Chinese New Year here in Singapore.  This year the celebrations started on February 8th (and they generally last approximately 2 weeks).  For those who aren’t familiar with Chinese New Year, here’s a quick tutorial:  The New Year festival (or Spring Festival) is considered a MAJOR holiday for the Chinese and is centuries old.  It gains significance because of several myths and traditions.  According to tales and legends, the beginning of the Chinese New Year started with a mythical beast called the Nian who would eat villagers, especially children.  To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was believed that after the Nian ate the food they prepared, it wouldn’t attack any more people.  One day, a villager decided to get revenge on the Nian.  A god visited him and told him to put red paper on his house and to place firecrackers.  The villagers then understood that the Nian was afraid of the color red.  When the New Year was about to come, the villagers would wear red clothes, hang red lanterns, and red spring scrolls on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nian.  From then on, Nian never came to the village again.  Traditionally, the festival was a time to honor deities as well as ancestors.  Often, the evening preceding Chinese New Year’s Day is an occasion for Chinese families to gather for the annual reunion dinner.  It is also traditional for every family to thoroughly cleanse the house, in order to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for good incoming luck.  Windows and doors are decorated with red paper cut-outs and other decorations –  with popular themes of “good fortune”, “happiness”, “wealth”, and “longevity”.  Other activities include lighting firecrackers and giving money in red paper envelopes.

I love that 2016 is the year of the monkey because we happen to have several “monkeys” in our family 🙂 The Chinese animal zodiac, or shengxiao (“born resembling”), is a repeating cycle of 12 years, with each year being represented by an animal and its reputed attributes.  Legend has it that one day the gods ordered that animals be designated as signs of each year and the twelve that arrived first were selected.  Traditionally these zodiac animals were used to date the years and originated in the Han Dynasty (202BC – 220AD).  Chinese people take their year of birth seriously.

One of my favorite things about Chinese New Year – the TREATS!!!  There are so many special treats that are available exclusively for Chinese New Year.  My personal favorites – pineapple tarts and “love letters.” YUM!!!  Tons of specialty “pop-up” shops can be found all over the city this time of year.  And the locals (who definitely have their favorite treats and places to buy them) can be found waiting in LONG lines in order to secure their holiday fix.  This is serious business!

Since I wound up flying home in January last year, this was the first time we were able to properly celebrate this spectacular holiday!  I couldn’t get enough of all the beautiful decorations, the fireworks, the fascinating holiday traditions and, of course, the food!  Visiting ChinaTown during the festivities was quite a treat.  Every inch was decorated in red and gold and (of course) MONKEYS!!!  I also loved watching the traditional lion dances that you can catch pretty much anywhere during this time of year.  So fun!!!  But when all is said and done, the thing I loved most about Chinese New Year is that it truly symbolizes family traditions and reunions.  It really is all about reuniting with your loved ones and celebrating family.  I saw endless family feasts and witnessed, once again, that love for family and celebration of friends is universal.

As always, we truly miss our family and friends!  We hope that your 2016 is filled with love and laughter, 福, 幸福, 财富 and 长寿.

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LOVE the lanterns

LOVE the lanterns

Much more fun than last year's "goat"

Much more fun than last year’s “goat”

Lots of monkeys in ChinaTown

Lots of monkeys in ChinaTown

A "pop-up" marketplace for Chinese New Year

A “pop-up” marketplace for Chinese New Year

Spring Festival Deco

Spring Festival Deco

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So cool to have a lion dance at our condo!

So cool to have a lion dance at our condo!

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So fun to watch!

So fun to watch!

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