Boom, Boom, Boom!!
I wake up, and wonder why I decided to camp right in the middle of a drumming training center last night.
But “no”, now I remember, I’m still in my flat in Singapore, its just one of these mornings short before Chinese New Year and the guys downstairs, with their arsenals of percussion sets are obviously early birds and Non-Party-Goers, its Sunday morning, 8AM, and they are very hard trying to break the record of most noise with fewest drum kits!! Jesus, where are my earplugs?
There are obviously some important things that you should be aware of when living or staying in Singapore during the Chinese New Year time. There are some things that might appear very strange on first sight, but let me explain and you will understand.
Continue reading if you want to be prepared for the Chinese New Year, and get a deeper insight into the most important festival of the Asian culture. And since this is such an important and wide topic, I decided to split up the post into two parts, for easier reading and better understanding.
Howling To The Moon (General Facts)
Chinese New Year is without question the most celebrated festival in the Asian culture, coming in a secure first place, short before the purchase of a New Mahjong Table.
It can be compared to the western New Years Eve, and in the end is exactly that, it announces the beginning of the new Chinese Year that always starts with the first new moon in the new moon cycle and ends on the 15ths with the “Latern Festival”.
There for Chinese New Year is happening on a different date every year, this time its the 26th of January (next year on the 14th of February), which is of course a public holiday, followed by another day off, so everybody can recover from a day of easting and drinking and gambling.
(Read: Which Chinese New Year Animal Are You? Find Out!)
Scare Away The Dragon (History)
What I remember from this old tale, and I am usually bad with both, tales and remembering things, is that there was this really bad monster called “Nian” (which means “Year”) which was hunting for food and living deep down in the ocean.
So far so good, the only problem was, that once a year, on Chinese New Years eve to be exact, the monster decided to take a little detour and come up to China mainland, for a huge feast on helpless and poor people. Because thats what monsters do best in the end.
As a result, people started to hide in the mountains, once this time of year came closer to arrive, which again makes kind of sense if you don’t want to end up in a monsters belly.
One day a guy, dressed in red, suddenly arrived at the unfortunate city and conducted a huge firework (that he was carrying in his pocket all the way), which surprisingly scared away the monster instantly, saving many lifes.
This is the reason, why until today every Chinese New Year there is a big firework and people get crazy about the color red, in every aspect. They hang up lanterns, dress in red, put up even more red decoration, paint their doors and windows red, and even buy more red underwear (as I astonished read in the local newspaper a couple of days ago).
The Dinner Of The Year (Reunion Dinner)
After the house was perfectly cleaned the day before Chinese New Year, washing away the bad luck and some dead cockroaches, everybody gets his reward on Chinese New Year eve, with the arrival of the the best, the most delicious and most indulging dinner of the year. The Family Reunion dinner.
All generations and family members come together to celebrate the arrival of the New Year, having traditional food like fish and dumplings, not worrying about spending too much money on this fantastic occasion. Actually, I just read an article about how even during these times of financial loss and crisis, tables in fancy restaurants sell out like cheap mobile phones, going for prices up to 6000 SD!! Well, I hope the food is worth it.
Throwing Your Food Away, uhm, I Mean In The Air (The Tradition Of Yusheng)
Especially in Singapore it is very common to have “Yusheng” at some time during the Chinese New Year festival. I had my “first one” last year, and I truly enjoyed it.
The dish itself is a mixture of salmon, fish, abalone and a lot of vegetables, that get thrown in the air, mixed up and then eaten. Sounds funny, is funny. And actually very tasteful as well. A grown up mens dream, officially playing with your food and not getting scolded.
The dishes usually arrive neatly separated on a plate, and then get tossed high in the while saying out wishes and wishing everybody prosperity and good luck for a happy new year. The higher you toss your food the better, and the more fun. I wish we had that all year long.
Continue With Part 2
This was the first part of my expat oriented path through the old Chinese New Year traditions.
Continue reading here the second part of the guide about… Bribery, Tangerines and Fights between ecstatic Firework enthusiasts and the Police…