Lunar New Year in Singapore
12th February marks the start of the Lunar New Year, most commonly associated with Chinese New Year or the Spring Festival. It's celebrated widely in east Asia and across many communities around the world and is a time for families to be together and celebrate new beginnings with loved ones.
In Singapore where Naeema is based, there is usually a vibrant mix of bright and beautiful decorations, sumptuous food and age old traditions. While the celebrations this year are a little more subdued, the festival still remains heartfelt particularly during this global pandemic.
Some common traditions include wearing brand new clothes, exchanging oranges, giving red packets (envelopes) filled with money to children and younger relatives and putting up decorations to bring good luck and fortune. Bright colours, especially red is undoubtedly the colour of the season and considered auspicious. Homes are thoroughly spring cleaned with beautiful lanterns adorning their doorways.
Carrying over good fortune into the new year is an important theme, as is protecting against bad fortune. There are lots of little things you are supposed to do, and not do. It is believed this will set the tone for future days.
The evening before the first day is typically spent having a meal with family, called the reunion dinner. Fish is one of the most important new year dishes, as it is believed to increase prosperity. Eating dumplings symbolises wealth and glutinous rice cakes symbolise a higher income or position.
Giving citrus trees adorned with ribbons symbolises good luck and prosperity, the yellow fruit representing gold or money, and lighting lots of red firecrackers and fireworks help to scare away evil and bring good luck.
To protect against bad fortune, you're supposed to pay back your debts before the new year starts. Wearing black or white is avoided as it's associated with mourning and you shouldn't wash your hair on the day as it could wash away good fortune. Cutting hair is taboo as in a time of family togetherness, it's believed that you'll sever those connections, and you mustn't sweep on the day or you'll be sweeping away accrued luck and wealth.
FOOD & RECIPES:
The heart of Chinese New Year is ultimately a celebration of family and home and with that a feast is a must! One particularly iconic dish in Singapore that I love the meaning behind is ‘Yu Sheng’, a prosperity salad comprising of various symbolic ingredients, each boasting it’s own flavour. Fresh fish is usually the star of the dish as it represents abundant fortune and the colourful vegetables symbolise prosperity.
The ritual of having Yu Sheng involves a group of people gathered around a massive plate, tossing up all the contents of the salad together, whilst exchanging blessings before eating it. The higher the toss the better your prospects and fortune in the year ahead. I found a lovely easy recipe for it so give it a go and enjoy! It makes for a fun lockdown dish for all the family to dig into too.
Dumplings and Pineapple Tarts are also popular foods and enjoyed throughout the festive period. They symbolise the coming of fortune wealth and prosperity.
Happy Lunar New Year to everyone celebrating. To good health, happiness, abundance and prosperity in the Year of the Ox!