Finding Romance In Chinese Astrology

year of the horse

On 31 January, Singapore celebrated the Lunar New Year – this is one of the most important holidays in the Chinese calendar as it symbolizes the coming of spring.  I personally love the Lunar New Year celebrations because it is a wonderful opportunity to get together and celebrate with the family.

chinese astrology

The Chinese culture has its own zodiac or astrological signs, which rotate each Lunar New Year.   The different signs are named after 12 different animals, (see my post HERE for more information on the animals and the story behind them). This year marks the year of the horse.

Like the western astrological signs, each character in the Chinese zodiac has unique characteristics and personality traits.   As a result, different signs are more compatible as friends, companions and lovers than other.  Because we are approaching western culture’s Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be fun to share a chart outlining compatibility.  You may be surprised to learn that many people still rely on these charts when determining if a mate is suitable for them!

Chinese Astrology

If you are in Singapore and would like to know more about your zodiac sign, you can always approach a Capella Singapore Personal Assistant who can arrange you meeting with a Chinese Astrology expert to teach you more about your sign and the significance of the Chinese zodiac.

Romantic Mexican Traditions

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Valentine’s day is around the corner, and it perfectly fits the loving and festive nature that defines Mexicans.  We use this sweet excuse to pamper our loved ones, friends and family.  Throughout history, love has always been very important to Mexicans and as a result, we have many romantic Mexican traditions.

Our ancient civilization Mexica had two gods, that personified Love: Xochipilli and Xochiquetzal.  Xochipilli was like the Apollo of the Mexica.  He was the god of Love, games, beauty, dance, flowers, corn and songs.  His name means “the prince of the flowers” and he had a twin sister, the goddess of love, Xochiquetzal, meaning “precious flower or ornate bird.”  In honor of this pair of gods and their representation of love, Mexica used to celebrate with a four day festival.  During this time the people would make offerings of bread and corn, pierce their tongues with maguey thorns and dance to the beat of drums called teponaztli.

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Today, Mexico’s Valentine’s Day celebrations are similar to celebrations around the world.  Red roses are given, romantic cards written and chocolates enjoyed.  But we do have some traditions that remain our own.

In smaller towns, young people often meet in town squares; the girls stand on one side, the boys on the other.  Then, they walk around the perimeter in opposite directions, so they can face and look at each other.  On the second round the boys offer a flower to the girl that they like.  On the third round, if the girl has retained the flower, it means that she has agreed to go out with her suitor.  If she doesn’t keep the flower, it means she has rejected him and the boy must pick another girl.

My absolute favorite way of expressing the love in Mexico are “las serenatas” (serenades).  They are just so romantic!  You have probably seen the act of playing a serenade in some movie.  Usually, the boyfriend gathers a group of mariachi, or a trio, and visits the girlfriend’s house after the sunset.  On the street, under his loved one’s window, they all start to sing the most romantic and heartfelt songs.  The intention is to wake her up with songs that will touch the heart.  When the girl appears at her window, it means that she is pleased and approves of the serenade (I can’t imagine a girl could resist such a sweet and romantic gesture from her loved one!).  However the family may be a different story- if they approve of the suitor he may be invited in to visit, but if the family does not they may toss the water on him!

At Capella Ixtapa we have prepared a special Valentine’s Day package and are organizing many romantic activities and sweet attentions during this most romantic month.  Who knows, we might even get to play a serenade for some of our lucky guests!

 

 

Photo: LA76 Photography

How To Make A Pinata

Pinata Fest

In Mexico, pinatas are a central part of every celebration.  They are especially popular during Las Posadas, the traditional processions, which take place during the nine days before Christmas.

Here at Capella Ixtapa, a pinata making class is being offered to guests interested in learning about this Mexican tradition.  But for those of you unable to attend, I have put together the instructions for you.

Pinata Fest

Materials:
-A Clay Pot or A Balloon (traditionally in Mexico a clay pot is used)
-Newspaper
-2 Bowls
-Flour
-Glue
-Colored Tissue Paper
-Rope
-Masking Tape
-Cardboards
-Candies (or other small items to fill the piñata)

Directions:
1. Take one bowl and fill it up with flour.  Add water until you create a smooth paste (tip: the final paste should have the consistency of the pancake batter).  Use the second bowl as your base to hold the pot or balloon.

2. Cut the rest of the newspaper into 2-3 inch wide strips.  Start dipping one paper strip after the other into the bowl of flour paste and placing it tightly over the balloon or clay pot.  Cover the entire balloon at least three times over to make a sturdy pinata base (if you are using a clay pot as a base, cover the pot with ten layers of paper – when pinata brakes these layers will hold the pot shards and protect them from flying around).  Allow the base to dry over night checking to make sure that the bowl doesn’t adhere to the piñata base.

3. Next, use a box cutter to cut a small hole at the top right and top left side of the dried pinata.  Cut a softball-sized hole in the top of the pinata— don’t throw the cut out section away, you will need it later!  Pull the balloon out from the inside.

4. Stick the rope into the small hole you made on the top right side of the pinata.  With the help of the bigger hole, guide the rope out the small upper-left hole.  You’ll use this rope to hang the pinata.  Cover and reinforce the small holes with masking tape.  These holes will bear a lot of weight when the pinata is hanging, so they need to be sturdy.  Fill the pinata with all the goodies.  Tape the softball-sized cutout section back onto the pinata.

5. The most traditional style pinata has seven cones in a star shape.  To create the cones  (or any other shape!) fold and glue cardboard to the pinata form.  Your pinata is now ready to be decorated!

6. Take your tissue paper and cut it in three-inch strips.  Glue the paper strips on the pinata.  You can for example have a colorful ‘body’ of the pinata, and then make each cone its own color.

 

Have a wonderful Christmas celebration! If you make your own piñata, please don’t forget to share it with me on Twitter or Facebook.

And if you are able to join us at Capella Ixtapa for the holidays, then be sure to contact your Personal Assistant for information and dates of our Christmas events and celebrations at pa.ixtapa@capellahotels.com!

 

Image via Flickr by Joey Parsons

Christmas In The Tropics

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As the year draws to a close, my favorite season is just beckoning round the corner – Christmas. I always feel like there is something indescribably festive in the air during Christmas.

Unlike what we often see in movies, here in Singapore, white Christmases are only made possible in our imagination. However, I assure you that a tropical Christmas has its own charms.

Each year, Singapore’s major shopping belt – Orchard Road is decked out in a special festive theme. I particularly love the nostalgia of the glittering lights which adorn the roads, the shopping malls with their larger than life seasonal decorations, and of course the delectable aroma of all the Christmas treats, reminding me of all the presents and parties each year.  While Christmas is largely a western tradition, Singapore still celebrates it with much fervor and gusto. Families and friends get together to share good cheer over a sumptuous festive spread and being Singaporean, there is one thing we know: how to have a fantastic feast!

Most locals embrace Western traditional foods such as a big roast turkey, a good leg of ham and of course the Christmas log cakes and candy. This year, I have decided that my roast turkey will be served with a twist.  Instead of the usual roast turkey, I will be serving a Tandoori turkey.  I have gone down to Little India to buy traditional Indian Tandoori spices and herbs such as cumin and garam masala.  I can’t wait to serve this turkey dish with a twist!

Of course, there is no better way to get into the Christmas spirit than with a group of carolers belting out all the festive favorites in local shopping malls and hotels. The sounds of the angelic choruses never fail to hit the right chord and send me sailing home in a seasonal mood.

If you still cannot decide how to spend this Christmas, come and join me in Singapore for a tropical Christmas and experience the kaleidoscope of celebrations in this cosmopolitan little island.

Singapore’s National Day

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Just around the corner is Singapore’s National Day!  Recognizing the day we gained independence, the holiday falls on the 9th of August and is day unity throughout our island nation.  This year we will be celebrating Singapore’s 47th Birthday.

People display their national pride with songs, flags and private celebrations.  But it is the much-anticipated National Day Parade that gets the most attention.

Floats are adorned with Singapore’s most beloved icons.  Military and civilian contingents march in unison and with passion.  There are even exhilarating air displays by fighter jets, as well as a fireworks spectacle.  The multi-ethnic performances, which incorporates traditional instruments and dance, reflects the harmonious mix of cultures that make Singapore unique.

This National Day, my family and I will be spending time at home enjoying local multi-cultural delicacies for lunch such as chicken rice, Satay (Malay barbeque meat skewers), chicken curry and a variety of Nyonya Kueh (Local desserts and cakes).  After that at about 6 pm, my family, along with the rest of Singapore, will tune in and watch the National Day Parade live on television. I am so excited!

The staff at Capella Singapore originate from various countries throughout the world, including France, Germany, Sweden, Holland, China, Philippines, Myanmar and India (just to name a few).  I love hearing about their excitement and anticipation of Singapore’s National Day festivities (some even plan to attend the parade live!).  It is this coming together that really captures the spirit of Singapore and its diverse inhabitants.

 

El Triunfo: The Ancient Silver Capital

El Triunfo church

Baja is a wonderful place, full of hidden places just waiting to be found.  On weekends, I love to drive around and search for lonely beaches and quiet villages, full of stories and history.  One of these is El Triunfo, a small village, that you stumble upon on your way from the East Cape to La Paz, Baja California Sur’s capital.

In 19th century, Baja was well known for its silver mines in San Antonio and El Triunfo.   The most productive mine was called El Triunfo de la Cruz, which gave birth to the mining town of El Triunfo.  One of El Triunfo’s landmarks the “La Ramona” chimney was designed by French engineer, Gustave Eiffel (the man that designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris).  At its height, El Triunfo had a population of 14,000 people briefly served as the capital of Baja California Sur in 1828 and 1829.

Gradually, the quality of the digs declined.  In 1918 a hurricane flooded the mine, and after several failed attempts to resurrect the operation, it was abandoned in 1926.  With it, El Triunfo’s glory began to fade.  Today the chimney, the memories, and stories told by residents, remind us of the silver age of El Triunfo.

If you would like to learn more of Baja’s history, visit El Triunfo.  The ruins of the silver mine are still there and serve as an excellent picture of 19th Century Baja. Just talk to your Capella Pedregal Personal Assistant about organizing a trip!