Surprising Horizons

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Tag: chinese new year

Chinese New Year Shenanigans


What is this sorcery?

As always, click on pictures for larger.

Behold, the first time “Chinese New Year” and “shenanigans” have appeared in one sentence everybody.

Chinese New Year is a big deal in Singapore and surrounding countries in Asia. There are a whole lot of traditions, superstitions, customs, rituals, and food that go along with the whole celebration and ethnic Chinese people take it very seriously.

Reading up about it, I can see why these customs are adhered to, as the basis for the celebration is ward off the evil Nian beast that is supposed to appear every new year. People put up red paper and set off firecrackers in the legends to frighten him and now people wear red and put up red displays around Chinese New Year now. Also it was believed that putting out food would stop the attacks and so we have a whole plethora of food related customs surrounding the celebration too.

Seeing as I am not Chinese (not even 0.01% I looked in to it) I don’t get to take part in most of the customary traditions but I did get to see some things this year.
I saw the annual lion dance at work. Two lions do some angry dances, eat some food laid out for them, and leave. When they are dancing there is an ear splitting cacophony of drums and symbols accompanying them. I can’t figure out if the lions are Nians or are just lions celebrating getting rid of the Nians. Somebody needs to enlighten me.

Before Chinese New Year comes around, homes usually clean the house from top to bottom (or get their maids to do it). So we cleaned our house. It wasn’t tradition it’s just that we hadn’t done it in a while. The dustballs were the size of Arizona tumbleweeds.

Along the food line of customary tradition our workplace treated us all to a Chinese New Year dinner. We ate traditional Chinese food and tossed the yusheng which is meant to bring good wishes. The higher the toss the more abundance of fortune you will receive. I think some ingredients are still on the ceiling from our lust for good fortune. I always knew I was a tosser.


The problem I have with Chinese food is that it constantly reminds me that what I’m eating used to be a living thing.

I have to admit, Chinese food is not my favourite in the world. It just doesn’t make sense to my palate.

Other bizarre customs that I didn’t witness first hand but happen nonetheless include:

  • On New Year’s Day, you are not supposed to wash your hair. No hair, no problem.
  • No lending stuff on New Year’s Day or you will be lending all year. I don’t trust anybody so no problem.
  • No crying on New Year’s Day or you will be crying all year. I had my tear ducts surgically removed recently. No problem.
  • Do not use knives or scissors on New Year’s Day as it will cut out all the fortune. Problem.
  • Do not greet anyone in their bedroom. Unless you’re there to fix the air-con. I don’t greet anyone. No problem.
  • Don’t give clocks as gifts; it’s a reminder of our imminent deaths. I don’t give gifts. No problem.
  • No ghost stories. I got rattled playing Bioshock recently. No problem.

I’m sure there are others but they seem to be the most prevalent. This year is the year of the monkey (which gives them free reign to accost you while you’re out walking). Figure out what lies in store for you this year by comparing your Chinese zodiac sign to the Monkey at the Chinese Fortune Calendar (made in FrontPage in 1997). If you’re that way inclined. I’m not so I didn’t.

Gōng xǐ fā cái!
May you have a prosperous New Year!

Snooping Around The Singapore President’s Home

All snooping was performed in a legal and ethically sound manner I assure you.

There are a few days a year that the Singapore President Tony Tan throws open his doors to his home for us common day yokels. I don’t blame him for giving us limited access.

So he opened up his home and grounds, The Istana, from 8:30am – 6:00pm on Tuesday 9th February in celebration of Chinese New Year. Shortly after that he was seen fumigating the entire grounds and house.

Let’s see what The Istana looks like then! As always click on pics for original size.


Lines weren’t that bad at 9:00am.

It is $2 to enter the grounds as a non-Singaporean (free for locals) and a further $4 to pop in to the “white house” itself.

Guards changing shifts. There was a line for elderly people and families.

Guards changing shifts. There was a line for elderly people and families.

Tony loves his golf!

Tony loves his golf!

The grounds are huge and families were enjoying the space. There was some play equipment out for the children and there were also some birds on display from the bird park. They looked pretty nonplussed by all the attention and one of them couldn’t help voicing his discontent about it all. Loudly.

It wasn’t too long a wait to go in to the home itself and guided tours are available. My suggestion would be just to wander around yourself as there really isn’t that much to see inside. You walk through a formal dining room, banquet hall, and you can have a look at the throne room too (not the toilet). No photos allowed inside but it’s full of fancy gifts from countries all over the world. I searched valiantly for Ireland but I guess you can’t really put an Aran Island woolly sweater on display among all the gold and silver.

Just a quick detour down to the Victoria Pond on the way out and that was that. Quite a nice thing to see as it’s only available four of five times a year but nothing too crazy excitable about it all. Great for families to bring the kids as you can make use of the vast grounds.


Victoria Pond

Aimed right at the front gate.

Aimed right at the front gate.

There were a number of security staff and volunteers around the grounds and house and they were all very friendly. I recommend going as early as you can because as I was leaving it was getting a bit busy at the entrance.

The entrance at 10:30am

The entrance at 10:30am

Happy New Year! Hey hey, we’re the monkeys!

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