Sunday, 10 February 2013

Chinese New Year Lantern Float 2013 in Singapore

Chinese Xmas and Santa Claus

rain28 °C

The Year of the Snake has slithered its way here today. Had been living in Singapore for over 3 years, but this is the 1st time we actually do something that would resemble what the locals do in CNY (Chinese New Year). We bought some CNY biscuits. And even went to visit the Float @ Marina Bay on CNY's Day on 10 Feb.

Every CNY, Singaporean government would put on a lantern display during the Spring Festival ('chun jie'='春节' as Chinese New Year is sometimes called). And it had been a tradition to place the Float at Marina Bay on a floating platform.

It had been raining, no, dumping down, for the last 2 weeks before the CNY's Day . From memory in the past 3 CNYs, it had been dry. But CNY falls on different dates every year (it falls between January 21 and February 20. Some years, it fall on Valentine's Day). If it occurs in January, the chance of  rain is lower. When I looked at the weather forecast to decide what would be the best day to attend. The weather forecast showed exactly the same rain pattern for the whole week. So we decided that we would simply take a chance.

Chili Crabs and Cockles
Chili crabs and cockles
In fact, the rain had stopped when we left the house about 5:30pm. We went there and grabbed some grub. We ordered chili crabs, boiled cockles and a seafood fried rice from the seafood stall on the Food Street that was set up next to the Float.

Both of these are Singapore specialities, very popular with the locals. Chili crab is up there with laksa, Hokkien noodles, fried carrot cakes, and Hainan chicken in terms of popularity, and being Singaporean. We wanted to make today a truly Singaporean day.

As a foodie, I'm truly flushed with embarrassment to admit that this is the 1st time I ordered a chili crab having lived here for more than 3 years. Shame on me! I ordered crabs once before, but it was cooked in century eggs, not chili. Very interesting taste combo, though.

God of Fortune, God of Wealth, in the Float in 2013 Chinese New Year, SingaporeI don't know why it took us so long to order one. It wasn't as if I can't handle spicy food. I love laksa, and eat it often. I didn't regret that I ordered the chili crab. It gave my mouth quite a party. I also love cockles, and they're often added into laksa and Hokkien noodle dishes. This order of cockles is so-so because most of the juice had gone. Still, I enjoyed it.

When we arrived at the Marina Bay, rains had resumed, albeit only drizzle. Despite the rain, it didn't dampen the spirit of a scattering crowd there. The highlight (pun intended) of the Float this year is the giant lantern of the God of Fortune (='cai shen'='財神'), who stands 18m tall. He's said to be the tallest lantern in Asia.

CNY isn't complete without the appearance of the God of Fortune. CNY in East and SE Asia is the closest thing to Xmas (than the New Year) in the West.

In the West, you get the full commercialisation of Xmas like Xmas musics and decorations in shopping malls. Likewise, you get CNY music, decorations and merchandising in shopping malls the weeks leading up to CNY. Don't forget Xmas and CNY food and movies. And both festive occasions are about families gathering for dinners, and exchanging gifts.

But last but not least, you also get to meet God of Fortune. It's Chinese Santa Claus. They're both bearded old men who wear red outfits and head gears,  give away things, and are very popular with children. And they only pop up to visit us once a year during the festive seasons. They're the 'human' faces, the ambassadors of respective Xmas and CNY festival.

You would usually see God of Fortune walking around shopping malls and whatnot handling out Red Packets, which usually contain chocolate coins instead of Luck Money. It isn't the actual value in the Red Envelop that matters, it's receiving anything from God of Fortune would bring luck to the whole year. Who can't use some luck throughout the year?

The giant lantern above, along with all the other lanterns were designed by Singaporean, but made in China (like everything else).
God of Fortune, God of Wealth, Chinese New Year, Singapore
God of Fortune poses for me in Vivocity Shopping Mall. And that obviously it's
 a fixed smile

God of Fortune, God of Wealth, Chinese New Year, Singapore
God of Fortune hands out Lucky Money
in Climenti Shopping Mall

Bespectacled God of Fortune holding a gold ingot, Marina Bay
Bespectacled God of Fortune holding a
gold ingot, Marina Bay

These 3 God of Fortune are decidedly shorter than 18m (and lower than 1.8m). If we were here last night (CNY's Eve), there would be stage performances from the Guangzhou Arts Troupe as well as fireworks. But it would also be a considerably much larger crowd than today.

Lotus lantern pond screen, in the Float in 2013 Chinese New Year, Singapore

This lantern screen above depicts a lotus pond with gold fish, which says to bring fortune. Furthermore, 'fish' (='Yu'='魚'), in Mandarin puns with 'adundance' (='Yu'='餘'). More fish motif below. Other pun like 'Fu', which sounds like 'bats', and so you tend to see them in CNY decorations.
Fish lantern, in the Float in 2013 Chinese New Year, Singapore
While It drizzled the whole time we were there, its dazzling colour were enhanced by the shimmering wet ground as well as flashes of colourful umbrellas, making it more picturesque.

Entrance, the Float in 2013 Chinese New Year, Singapore

Of course, no CNY float is complete without the 12 Chinese animal zodiacs inside what look like hollowed out vases.

Dragon inside a Vase, in the Float in 2013 Chinese New Year, Singapore

Snake lantern, in the Float in 2013 Chinese New Year, Singapore
The left photo shows the Dragon, the zodiac for last year. The right photo shows the star of this year, the Snake. There's also the tradition of Lantern Riddles Guessing Game (猜燈謎). This Lantern Riddles are supposed to be held on the 14th days after CNY, and it's appropriately called Lantern Festival. According to custom, the riddles are dangled at the bottom of the lanterns, and the answers are hidden inside the lanterns. Over here, they're simply written on pieces of papers on a board to save cost, I imagine.
Lantern Riddle Competition, in 2013 Chinese New Year, Singapore

This CNY float definitely hooks me to attend future ones. You could see the rest of the photos here.

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