Monday 11 February 2019
As I walked around in Sydney last Thursday 7th February taking in the festive decorations of the 12 animals in the Chinese Zodiac, I was reminded how I used to celebrate Chinese New Year in Singapore. As a child, my memories were of visiting my neighbours and admiring their clean, decorated homes with red cloths hung over the doorway for good luck. I always looked forward to eating traditional goodies only available during this time; my favourites being pineapple tarts and love letters. But best of all, I loved the little red packets that I was given filled with money (always even numbers). As I grew older and visited friends on my own, I had to remember to bring 2 oranges (the word for orange sounds like gold) to give to my hosts and they in turn would do the same when I left (I used to wonder if they were the same ones when I was younger!). I even attempted to help my friend’s mother make the love letters, only to be shooed out of the kitchen as I couldn’t roll them perfectly and quickly (they were very hot!).
Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival and it is one time that everyone takes a break from work and families get together. Legend has is that a fearsome giant beast called Nian used to terrorise people and every year they would hide in fear until they discovered that it was afraid of noise and the colour red. This helped in defeating Nian so the people could have a new start. To this day red remains an auspicious colour and noise in the form of firecrackers are set off (though this is somewhat curtailed in some cities in China due to severe air pollution).
The Chinese Zodiac assigns an animal and its attributes in a 12-year cycle and I love sharing how the animals came about to be in the order that they are at. 2019 is the Year of the Earth Pig and is said to be a good year for all.
So I wish all of you a Happy Chinese New Year and also Happy Birthday as today Feb 11th, the 7th day of the New Year is everyone’s birthday!