Happy Chinese New Year of the Goat!

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“GONG XI FA CAI!”

We are celebrating Chinese New Year (CNY) in Singapore as it is celebrated in many other countries in Asia which have Chinese population. Chinese calendar is a lunar calendar. We or people of China do not use this calendar in daily life. Still it is a tradition to celebrate coming of the new year.

In Chinese zodiac, there are 12 different years which are represented by different animals: zi (rat), chou (ox), yin (tiger), mao (rabbit), chen (dragon), si (snake), wu (horse), wei (goat), shen (monkey), you (rooster), xu (dog) and hai (pig). 2015 is the year of the goat.

CNY is something like the Christmas of the East. This will be our third CNY experience. When we first moved to Singapore, we celebrated the year of the snake. 2014 was the year of the horse, and now we are about to celebrate the beginning of the year of the goat. You can see the decorations, lightings and observe traditional events during February; especially in Chinatown. Yesterday evening we went to Chinatown to feel this atmosphere and take some nice pictures.

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Some food are especially popular during Chinese New Year due to their traditional importance:

"Bakkwa" is sweet, caramelised meat, usually from pork.
“Bakkwa” is sweet, caramelised meat, usually from pork.
Candies and jellies
Candies and jellies
Dried fruits or nuts
Dried fruits or nuts
Various kinds of snacks / cookies of the season
Various kinds of snacks / cookies of the season
Dried and waxed duck or other meat or fish.
Dried and waxed duck or other meat or fish.

Here, I would like to share top 5 CNY traditions. Some of them very similar to our traditions [in the West] but some of them are very unique.
Let’s have a look:

1. People wear red to usher in more prosperity and good luck. Wearing black is taboo because it represents bad luck and death in Chinese culture.

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2. Orange (in particular tangerine) is the most important fruit of the season. You can see many small tangerine trees, decorating homes and streets for prosperity during CNY. The “bosses” (i.e. managers) give tangerines to his/her employees and celebrate the New Year by saying “Gong Xi Fa Cai!”. Exchanging oranges is another custom. When you visit someone, you present tangerines and do not forget to receive some when you are leaving. I think this represents sharing the prosperity with the others.

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3. Giving money to children, singles and elderly people in red envelops (‘ang bao’) is another important tradition. This is something similar to giving money and handkerchiefs to children in Bayrams (Eid) in Turkey.

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4. The ban for housework & Lighting up the house
Housework is completely banned during the CNY. Spring-cleaning, which symbolizes sweeping away bad luck, should be completed by CNY eve. During CNY eve, the lights in every room are turned on to usher in a bright and cheery lunar new year too.

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5. Doing “Lo Hei” with your friends
This is something basically doing a mess at dinner table with your chopsticks. “Lo Hei”, means that “tossing up good fortune”. You prepare a dish called ‘yu sheng’ (containing veggies, raw fish etc.) with your friends by adding the ingredient with your chopsticks and shouting “Lo Hei”. The higher you toss, the greater your fortune will be!