50 years ago, Chinatown was vibrant with firecrackers exploding on the streets and excited children who probably didn’t care about the “danger” and just wanted to have fun in a sea of red. This recollection by Allan Tan for Singapore Memory Project sums up the CNY mood of that era below:
Another thing that drove our adrenalin was fire crackers! They would be on sale about 3 weeks before the occasion, and we kids would watching some adults playing with them. Some shops would buy a long train of huge firecrackers, hang it from the top of the houses (about 4 to 5 stories of our HDB flat today), and then the noise of the firecrackers exploding would attract the whole neighbourhood, followed by liion dances.
Fast forward 50 years, this is how Chinese New Year is celebrated in Singapore. Quiet streets in residential areas, a rather quiet Chinatown (when I went), and foreigner populated festival spaces. Comparing this with my CNY posts narrating the previous 2 years, I admit that there was not much of a difference. Except that I went to River Hongbao this year to spice up my life a bit.
Went to Chinatown on the eve around 11am before attending CH2291 lecture from 4 to 6pm. Yes you aren’t seeing things. Lecture was on as usual at this awkward timing. Suffice to say half of the cohort didn’t turn up but like the typical kiasu Singaporean student, I decided to go.
Anyway back to topic. The streets of Chinatown weren’t as crowded when I went, so it might be the timing that mattered. What Chinatown presented now is a sterile, tourist-orientated and artificial picture. The makeshift stores which imported Taiwan jelly/mochi were surprisingly quieter this year and brought in a narrower range of merchandise. Previously they were the noise-makers that kept the area alive. I guess it might be probably due to the frequent bout of food scares in Taiwan and the lack of consumer confidence.
The soft toy of the year. Because 羊 can refer to lamb/sheep/goat/ram, expect different toy designs. MEH. I wonder if there are any avid collectors out there who would go about collecting these touristy soft toys.
This year’s roadside decorations of rather motionless goats. And I just realised that the overhead CNY decorations are always gold coins…which shows how much love we have for money.
Day 1 was the usual gathering at my grandma’s house, taking selfies, social media-ing, eating, taking my relatives for a house tour at our newly renovated flat, blah. Last time in the late 1990s we would play Pop Pop and fire sparklers. The sounds from the explosives and the sparks at least (to me) parallels with the firecrackers of the 1960s in hyping up the CNY mood, even though they are definitely less happening. Later we stopped playing them altogether because 1. We have outgrown it. 2. The trend just died (even though I occasionally hear fire sparklers here and there).
Day 2 is the same, just that it’s my father’s side. I don’t have a close-knitted paternal side is all I have to say.
Went to River Hongbao in the evening for the 1st time in my life. Not sure if I should make this a yearly ritual, but the crowd was horrifying. I don’t even know how to describe how freaking crowded it is. For every photo of the exhibits taken, expect to see people littering the back/foreground. Like this one (taken from my dad’s phone):
This year theme is related to SG50 rhetoric, so there were exhibits iconic of Singapore like the mosaic playgrounds and courtesy lion. And this huge mural wall with even more icons of the Singapore landscape. Having the SG50 overdose now because it is everywhere. Even before Singapore hit 49, SG50 was already in the making.
To fit the CNY theme there were exhibits on the 12 zodiac forecasting the fortune for the year ahead. And not forgetting the God of Fortune for the money-lovers.
Interesting observation at River Hongbao: There was a corner to guess Chinese riddles, and most people who answered it were China nationals. RIP Singapore Chinese.
Okay next… What is CNY without lou hei. I guess lou hei is able to survive till today because eating is a national pastime and the beliefs of all things good associated with it. I never liked eating yu sheng because the smell of the sauce put me off. Usually I will join in the rites and then eat 1 bite for the sake of politeness or just skip it altogether. Anyway my uncle tossed the veggies the highest and the next thing we knew, he struck 4D after buying iBet. (Not bluffing, this really happened.)
And yes, what is CNY in the 2010s without #ootd? As much as children in the past are excited to wear brand new clothes, we are excited to post ourselves flaunting our new/relatively new(if no one knows that you have worn that shirt before, then it is new to them right!) coordinate. I inked these roses specially for the new year! They symbolise 花开富贵, which means may the flowers bloom with prosperity.
I am so obsessed with it so here is another photo. Different filter so the color turned out to be paler.
Okay fine I know in Leviticus 19:28 it says “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.” so obviously the rose is only temporary. TSK. But anyway the tattoo is very resistant to water. Day 4 and it is still staying strong.
Wonder how CNY will be celebrated in 50 years time. Will we still be eating pineapple tarts and yusheng? How will the picture of the Singapore streets be painted?