Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The Year of the Goat: CNY (and Xmas) Displays & Decorations

GOF (God of Fortune) started to appear punctually in my local supermarket, reminding me that CNY (Chinese New Year) is coming. GOF, aka Chinese Santa, arrived as early in CNY as Santa in Xmas (Christmas). Usually 6 weeks or so before CNY and Xmas respectively.

God of Fortune, Sheng Siong Supermarket, Singapore
GOF, Sheng Siong supermarket
God of Fortune, StarVista Shopping mall, Singapore
GOF, the Star Vista shopping mall

God of Fortune (or Wealth) is - in a sense - Chinese Santa because CNY (Chinese New Year) is in many ways share much more in common with Xmas (Christmas) and American Thanksgiving than the Gregorian New Year.

This makes sense. The CNY to the Chinese is what Xmas to the West. In both cases, it's the traditional times where people spend time with their families.

God of Fortune and Santa are certainly the faces of these festival seasons. And in these days of the largest commercialisations of festivals, these 2 faces are being put to sell stuffs. They become the marketers, spokesmen of the merchandises of these 2 festivals east and west.

Santa Claus, Jem Shopping Centre, Singapore
Santa Claus holding a present at Jem Shopping Mall
God of Fortune, Star Vista shopping mall, Singapore
God of Fortune holding an ingot at The Star Vista shopping mall

Both GOF (God of Fortune. Not to be confused with Goblet of Fire) and Santa are both givers. While Santa are said to present gift to children,  GOF presents money to adults (and children).

I have yet seen Father Christmas handing out gifts to children in shopping malls, however, I had met GOF handing out hongbao (or red envelops, aka lucky money) to shoppers in Singapore.

These days, the rules are lax in the shopping malls. Hey, it's the festive seasons!

Since this is the Chinese Year of the Goat, and I'm talking about Xmas, So I want to bring up the Yule Goat. This is an mythical animal that connects Goat and Xmas. In Northern Europe and Scandinavian folklore, Father Christmas rides a Yule Goat instead of a chariot of reindeer . Yule Goat today is typically made of straws and used as decorations of the Xmas trees or Yule trees.

This is pagan belief because Father Christmas isn't in the Bible just in case you don't know. Many of the so-called Christian customs are inherited from pre-Christian, pagan traditions.

Yule Goat

This year, I haven't been fortunate enough to meet GOF in the flesh, receiving his goodies like I had encountered them in 2013 when I've met 3 of them in different malls. This year, I only saw their likeness in cardboard cutouts or the more elaborate 3D figures. Call me old fashioned (or is it trendy? I prefer to meet GOF in bipedal 3D homo sapiens).

Most shopping malls have assigned time where GOFs rove around. While GOF is a religious idol, he's not my idol, who would mysteriously make me scream hysterically at his very sight. Nah !

Of course, the largest GOF figure could always be found in the Float @ Marina Bay for the CNY RHB (River Hongbao) display. He has grown tall over the years, and this year he's 18m tall. In a century or so, he might grow to 18 story tall.

God of Fortune lantern display, River Hongbao, Float @ Marina Bay, Singapore

He's tall from any angle.

As expected, most of the CNY displays and especially Light-Up occurs in the Chinatown's Eu Tong Sen Street every year. Orchard Road, on the other hand, because it's a "Western" street, its CNY display is minimal (Just look at the names, "Eu Tong Sen St" and "Orchard Rd", which is a Chinese and English name respectively).

A number of the CNY decorations were actually adopted from its Xmas displays and Light-Up, which Orchard Road occupies centre stage.

Take Paragon, which won the Judges' Choice for the Best Dressed Building Contest of 2014 for the annual traditional Christmas Light-Up on Orchard Road, had adopted some of its existing Xmas decoration for CNY. Waste not, want not. Or using modern language, be green, re-use, recycle!

The Christmas tree was of course being removed, a minimal additional Chinese motif and a few lanterns added, and voila! We have a CNY display.

Christmas display, Paragon, Orchard Road, Singapore
Xmas display
CNY display, Paragon, Orchard Road, Singapore
CNY display

313 @ Somerset's Xmas Display
313 @ Somerset's CNY Display

The same recycling concept was also applied by OC (Orchard Central), who's happened to be the winner of the Voters' Choice for the Orchard Road's Best Dressed Building Contest in 2014. But OC adopted for the Valentine's Day instead of CNY. Because this year, Valentine's Day (Feb 14) is quite close to CNY Day (Feb 19).

Another example could be seen in the Changi Airport for the giant Micky and Minnie figures, who also had gone through 2 festive seasons.

Since CNY Day falls within 21 Jan to 21 Feb every year, and so it's entirely possible that CNY and VD falls on the same day. This actually occurred in 2010 in the Year of the Tiger. While the coincidence is possible, but not very probably. The next time this day occurs in 2030. So don't hold your breath.

Christmas Decoration, Orchard Central, Singapore
OC's Xmas decoration
Valentine's Day Decoration, Orchard Central, Singapore
OC's Valentine decoration

OC's Xmas decoration
OC's Valentine decoration

As these 2 festivals are the most important festive seasons for West and East, and so their displays are the most elaborate, and most importantly, they're so close together in time, it makes sense that the business think about these 2 festive displays together.

Vivocity shopping mall, Singapore
Vivocity's front is quite free of festive displays

Some of the larger shopping malls outside Orchard Road were of course also got into the act of putting on CNY displays. You normally don't see much festive displays outside Vivocity, this is because they put theirs on their very spacious rooftop (completes with toddler pools).

Chinese New Year display, Vivocity shopping mall, Singapore

Chinese New Year display, Vivocity shopping mall, Singapore

Chinese New Year display, Vivocity shopping mall, Singapore Chinese New Year display, Vivocity shopping mall, Singapore

Apart from decoration, Coca Cola is also getting into the act. No, I'm not talking about CNY decoration. They make Coca Cola bottle labels with auspicious CNY messages.

Coca Cola bottle labels with Auspicious Messages for Chinese New Year , Singapore Coca Cola bottle labels with Auspicious Messages for Chinese New Year , Singapore

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