Frank and I arrived in Singapore as the residents were preparing for the most important event on the Chinese calendar – Chinese New Year. It’s a big deal here because seventy-five percent of the Singapore population is ethnic Chinese (15% are Malay, considered the indigenous population; and 15% are ethnic Indian). As in China, Chinese New Year is a public holiday and the festivities last for several days. Singapore is all decked out in red (the color of luck) with lanterns and banners everywhere. Something else you’ll find everywhere? Dogs!! Each year of the Chinese calendar is assigned one of twelve animals; 2018 is the Year of the Dog.
Chinese New Year reminds us of Christmas with its decorations, parades, cheery greetings and its focus on family. I love the concept of the traditional Reunion Dinner, held on the eve of the new year. Family members rush back home (sometimes from very far away) to share this one most important meal of the year with loved ones. The following days are spent visiting other relatives and friends — enjoying time with the ones who matter most.
Frank and I felt very fortunate to attend a Chinese New Year celebration. We made a new friend — a relative of Milwaukee friends – who graciously invited us to the home he shares with his beautiful fiancée and charming teenage son.
We went to the store to grab some wine for the party and started talking to a very nice older woman. She had two decorative boxes of mandarin oranges and I asked if this was something one would traditionally bring to a celebration. She said “Yes, but you must bring two; they symbolize good luck.” I was super excited to be “in” on the tradition and proudly presented the two boxes of citrus to our hosts. They seemed puzzled. “They symbolize good luck,” I explained. They chuckled, “It’s supposed to be two oranges, not two boxes of oranges!!” We all laughed. Guess, they’ll have a lot of good fortune in 2018!
Along with their friends, we participated in a uniquely Singaporean tradition – Lo Hei. A salad, made up of specific, symbolic ingredients, is set in the middle of the table. Everyone grabs a pair of chopsticks and begins to toss the salad inward and higher with each toss! At the same time, everyone yells out wishes for themselves and those gathered for the upcoming year, “Wishing you good health!” “Happiness and love!” “A new job!” “Riches!” One of ours, the wish for “New friends and adventures?” – well, that came true that night!
Happy New Year and Good Luck in this Year of the Dog!