Are you a new expat in Singapore? With Chinese New Year (CNY) fast approaching, here’s our quick guide to get you up to speed on how CNY is celebrated in Singapore.
1. Wearing new clothes
Most Singaporeans will make an effort to buy new clothes to wear for the CNY celebrations. This is because wearing new clothes symbolizes a fresh start to the new year. During CNY, you can also see some women wearing the elegant traditional clothing called the cheongsam or qipao.
2. Red is considered an auspicious colour
Red is considered an auspicious colour for CNY. It represents prosperity and many people tend to wear red during this festive period. Other brightly-coloured colours are fine too. Homes will usually be decked out in red-coloured decorations. Avoid wearing black during the CNY period though as this is a colour that’s associated with death and is considered as unlucky.
3. Giving ang pows
During CNY, elders and married couples will give ang pows to children or young single adults. These are red packets that are filled with money. In general, you would usually give a larger sum to your own parents, in-laws and children. You will also need to prepare ang pows for cousins, nephews, nieces and other relatives who will be present during the family gatherings. Some people may also give ang pows to the security guard at your condo, the cleaning aunty at your office or the migrant worker at your HDB area as a token of appreciation.
4. You can’t go wrong with pineapple tarts
In Singapore, pineapple tarts are considered as a must-have CNY treat. In Chinese dialects such as Hokkien or Cantonese, pineapple sounds close to a phrase that means “luck is coming”. It’s no wonder that these buttery and flakey melt-in-your-mouth goodies are popular as gifts because they “bring luck”. There are many different varieties of pineapple tarts from the traditional opened face ones to ball-shaped ones. If you need to bring a CNY gift while visiting a colleague, you can’t go wrong with pineapple tarts
5. Enjoying yusheng with family, friends and colleagues
Yusheng is a dish consisting of strips of raw fish mixed with shredded vegetables and other sauces and condiments. Also known as lo hei, yusheng is must-have at family or corporate gatherings during CNY. Yusheng sounds like the word for abundance and therefore symbolizes abundance and prosperity. Each ingredient is associated with blessings and good fortune. Using chopsticks, everyone tosses up the ingredients while saying auspicious phrases for a good fortune in the year ahead.
6. Feasting on CNY goodies
In the weeks leading up to CNY, you’ll notice supermarkets and stores selling a variety of CNY treats. People will usually buy these for munching at home or for gifting to family members, friends and colleagues during CNY. Besides pineapple tarts, other popular CNY goodies include prawn rolls, peanut cookies, kuih bangkit, love letters, butter cookies, arrowhead chips and more. Bak kwa (dried savoury sweet meat) is another CNY favourite.
7. Exchanging mandarin oranges
Exchanging mandarin oranges is a custom during CNY. The name for mandarin orange sounds like “gold” in Chinese, so the act of giving mandarin oranges sounds like “giving gold” which means wishing the recipient prosperity. In Singapore, if you are visiting your friend’s home for CNY, you’ll usually bring 2 oranges and present them using both hands to your recipient. They will usually reciprocate and gift you back 2 mandarin oranges in return to wish you wealth and good luck in return.
8. Jazzing up the home with “huat” decorations
By now, you’ll probably guess that CNY has to do with fortune, prosperity and abundance. Families will usually adorn their homes with “huat” (lucky) decorations, ornaments and couplets that are usually in auspicious red or gold colours. Flowers and plants such as pussy willow, cherry blossom, money tree, bamboo and orchids are popular too because they signify fortune and good luck.