Surely you’ve heard all the festive tunes playing in the malls, supermarkets, and just about every lobby in town. Yep — Chinese New Year (CNY) is just around the corner.
The Lunar New Year tradition is all about welcoming the new and celebrating the year ahead with bright colours, big laughs and lavish feasting. 2020 is no exception!
If you’ve just purchased a new home and would like a few ideas on CNY decorations and activities you can organise, here are eight fun suggestions that you may want to explore. (Also read: 4 questions people ask property agents during CNY and 5 great CNY games to play with kids at home)
Embellish your new home with a dash of red, the auspicious colour that is said to bring good luck and wealth. Hanging a pair of red lanterns at the front porch or sticking a red inverted “fu” (the Chinese character for “prosperity”) on the front door are simple ways to get started.
For a more elaborate look, paste hand-written couplets — also known as “chun lian” — on both sides of the front door to wish your houseguests a good year ahead. Just make sure you understand the meaning of the Chinese poems to avoid any embarrassment later.
Since this CNY is the Year of the Rat, placing some rat zodiac figurines around the home would be rather eye-catching too! Oh, how about adding Mickey Mouse to the mix?
Just as Christmas trees and mistletoe are significant for Christmas, there are flowers and plants that are traditional decorations for CNY too.
The first of these popular CNY plants is the pussy willow. This translates to “silver willow,” which sounds a lot like “silver coin” in Chinese. The second popular option is the kumquat, which means “gold luck” in Cantonese.
Since the CNY celebration is all about ushering in wealth and prosperity, it’s not difficult to figure out why these plants are such a big hit during CNY.
If you’d prefer flowers instead, peonies, cockscomb, and celosia plumosa are ideal choices for the festive season. They come in bright, refreshing colours that are symbolic of the arrival of Spring.
The fun part of CNY celebrations is in the preparation, and baking CNY goodies is one activity the whole family can participate in. What better home fragrance than the aroma of freshly baked cookies and cakes?
While there’s a wide variety of traditional CNY goodies in the market, some common home-baked ones include pineapple tarts, almond biscuits, sugee cookies, cornflake crunch cups, and peanut cookies.
Ready to drum up the excitement? Getting a lion dance troupe to bless your home can be a highlight that goes a long way. Lion dance is widely regarded as one of the most important traditions of CNY because it’s believed to bring good luck and drive away evil spirits for the upcoming year.
Hiring a lion dance troupe for your private home blessing can cost anywhere from S$388 to over a thousand. However, in some HDB estates, you may spot lion dance troupes going from door to door to bless homes during CNY. All you need to do is to pay a token fee to invite them in.
Just a word of caution: lion dance music is very loud, so it may be a good idea to pay a courtesy call to inform your neighbours about the performance beforehand. Better still, invite them to witness the special performance with you and your family!
Hosting a steamboat feast for the reunion night (CNY Eve) is a great way to get into the CNY mood. After all, who doesn’t like to have a scrumptious hot pot meal? Eating steamboat is one of the many ways of feasting during CNY. It is a good way to gather a crowd around the table for a participative dining experience that’s full of fun and laughter.
In Singapore, some of the common steamboat ingredients are prawns, thinly sliced meat, leafy vegetables, mushrooms, fishballs, scallops, fish maw, tofu, and finally a rich and flavourful broth.
Inviting friends and relatives for a gathering cum housewarming is a brilliant way to introduce your new nest to your loved ones. Select an open house date during the 15-day CNY period to host them with your homemade cookies, bah kwa, and assortment of CNY candies. Exchanging auspicious greetings, mandarin oranges, and ang baos are all fun traditions that will make the occasion more joyous too.
The usual highlight for any CNY gathering is the game Blackjack (also known locally as “Ban Luck”), in which anyone from any age group can participate. Unlike the casino-style Blackjack, the local version is a lot easier to learn and play.
Traditional lo hei involves tossing a big dish comprising raw fish slices, a variety of shredded vegetables, and a few choice sauces and condiments. Every ingredient has a symbolic meaning and hosts usually explain these to the guests as a gesture of well-wishing before the start of the lo hei event.
The fun of it lies in gathering a crowd of people around the table and having everyone toss the ingredients as high as possible while exclaiming their new year wishes aloud. Just imagine the noise, the uncontrollable laughter and the aftermath of the tossing! However, it’s all well worth it, at least for tradition’s sake.
There’s also no need to worry about preparing the complicated lo hei dish on your own. In Singapore, many restaurants offer take-away versions. Just remember to order it in advance to avoid disappointment.
There’s no better way to round up the CNY season than another reunion session with close family members on the 15th-day of CNY. Also known as “Yuan Xiao Jie,” this day marks the first full moon after the new year and symbolises coming together in harmony and happiness.
While having a lavish dinner can be delightful, serving up traditional tang yuan can be a much more meaningful event. This dish, which dates as far back as the Yongle Era, is made of glutinous rice balls filled with walnuts, black sesame, red bean, or peanut paste and served in a sweet ginger broth. You can even try making tang yuan on your own as a kid-friendly activity.