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.

 

Lacquered handcrafts from Olinalá

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Mother’s Day in México is celebrated on May 10th, and for this year, I wanted to give my mom a unique present.  I found beautiful lacquered boxes at the local handcraft stores, and I immediately knew that this would be the perfect present.  From the artist I found out that these boxes come from a small town Olinalá, located miles up in the Guerrero Mountains.

This remote town Olinalá is famous for its beautiful lacquered boxes, made from “Linaloe”, the traditional fragrant wood, which grows in the area.  The boxes are usually decorated with the animals of the region of Olinalá: deers, armadillos, rabbits, coyotes, ‘tlacuaches’, iguanas, doves, ‘zopilotes’, snakes, scorpions, lizards, etc.  Besides the boxes, the artisans also produce other beautiful handcrafts like fruit bowls, masks, jewelry boxes, folding screens, trunks, and more.

The artisans have been passing the techniques for lacquer production from generation to generation since pre-Hispanic times.  These artisans, who are predominately made up of indigenous locals, still speak ‘nahuatl’, the ancient language of Aztecs.

When you visit Capella Ixtapa, it won’t be necessary to go all the way to the remote location of Olinalá to get some of these famed lacquered boxes and other wood handcrafts.  You can find these and other beautiful and delicate handcrafts in the Zihuatanejo market.

I have now the perfect gift for my Mom, it is beautiful and I love supporting local producers.  On your next visit, our Personal Assistant will be glad to organize the market tour for you, so you can see and/or buy beautiful local handcrafts for your loved ones as well!  And for those of you feeling extra adventures our PAs can even plan a visit to this secluded village!

 

The 15 Days of Chinese New Year

The must have Yu Sheng.

While the calendar may have moved from 2011 to 2012, here in Singapore and many other parts of Asia, the celebrations do not stop. Next up, Chinese New Year.  The Chinese New Year celebrations are rich in traditions.  Here at Capella Singapore, we’re already deep in the midst of preparing for all the festivities, from designing special menus, red packets, and special events to welcome the Chinese New Year.

Before the festivities begin, families spend the days leading up to the first day of Chinese New Year cleaning up the house.  This act symbolises getting rid of the old and bad fortune of the preceding year and making way for the good fortune of the coming year.  The eve of Chinese New Year is when the celebrations begin with a large family dinner.  The must-have dish is “yu sheng” (鱼生), which is a raw fish salad.  Every member at the table will “toss” it as high as possible to symbolise growth and prosperity.  “Yu sheng” is as a homophone for another Chinese word meaning an increase in abundance.  Therefore, it is considered a symbol of abundance, prosperity and vigor.

The must have Yu Sheng.

These days with everyone’s busy schedules, Singaporeans hardly have time to observe all 15 days of Chinese New Year, saving the celebrations to the more important days.  The first day is probably the most important day of Chinese New Year, as it is a time to honor one’s elders.  Families visit the oldest and most senior members of their extended families and those family members who are married give red packets containing money to the junior family members.

On day two, known as “kai nian” (开年, beginning of the year), married daughters visit their parents, relatives and close friends.  The seventh day is “everyone’s birthday” and is considered the day when everyone grows a year older.  Once again people gather in restaurants to celebrate this day and “yu sheng” is tossed.

The 15th and final day is known in the Hokkien dialect as “chap goh mei” (十五暝, the fifteenth night).  It is not only the last day of Chinese New Year festivities, but is also the Chinese “Valentine’s Day.”  According to traditions, single women throw mandarin oranges into the river and single men wait by the river to pick up the oranges.  The sweetness of the orange represents the indication of possible compatibility.

Chinese New Year 2012 begins on the 23rd of January so; if you’re looking for a new experience, join us in Singapore for all the festivities!

For a full taste of Chinese New Year in Singapore, check out this video:

New Year Celebrations in Mexico

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New Year’s is upon us! The New Year celebrations in Mexico vary depending on the region, but in general, dinner with the family is the most common New Year’s Eve event.

This year we will celebrate at my home. We will start the evening by a late-night dinner. I am preparing traditional Mexican dishes including Bacalao (dried salted codfish), and Romeritos (patties of dried shrimp, sprigs of a wild plant known as ‘Romerito’ that resembles rosemary and potatoes served in a mole sauce).  We normally toast with apple cider (not Champagne as elsewhere), and my mother-in-law will prepare the fruit punch for the occasion.

At midnight we all shout “Feliz año nuevo!”  Followed by the grape tradition.  What is the “grape tradition?” During the tolling of the 12 bells announcing the hour, a grape is eaten at each of the 12 bell tolls.  The grapes represent a wish for the abundance for each month of the coming year. After this we embrace each other and say wishes for the upcoming year.

But that is just a sampling of our New Year’s traditions!  Two popular ones include:

  • If you want to have luck in love in the coming year, you need to wear red underwear on New Year’s Eve.
  • If you are looking for luck with money, make sure your underwear is yellow.

Not all of the traditions require you to wear special undergarments.  One of my favorite says, that if you want to travel during the new-year then you must take your luggage for a walk around the block!

After New Year’s Eve, we usually relax on January 1st and have lunch with other friends and relatives.

I would love to hear how you celebrate New Year’s Eve?

 

(En Español)

Carnival in Düsseldorf

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Carnival is one of the most dominant traditions in the Rhine area.  It has its roots in Catholicism and coordinates with the time leading up to lent.  The Jecken (those who celebrate carnival) celebrate from November 11 at 11:11am through Ash Wednesday.

The real celebration begins after the 1st of the year, when speeches and costume balls and other events take place.  The highlights of the season are Altweiberfastnacht (the Thursday before the season’s end), Carnival Sunday (the following Sunday) and Rosenmontag.

Altweiberfastnacht is truly a day of mischief.  One tradition involves women cutting off the ties of as many men as possible.  But don’t feel too bad for the men—they receive a kiss on the cheek for their troubles.

On Carnival Sunday, hundreds and thousands of people meet at the Old Town and the Königsalle to celebrate the Carnival season together.  They dress in costume, sing and dance for a day of general merriment.

The big finale is the amazing parade that takes on Rosenmontag.  The parade is made up of more than 60 floats that are built over months by the individual carnival clubs (often with the support of many voluntary helpers). The intention of the parade wagons is to caricature and pick up current events in society or other heavily discussed topics.  Children especially look forward to the “Kamelle” candies that are thrown to the crowd as the floats pass by.

It is almost impossible to explain how amazing the Carnival traditions of the Rhine area are– especially Carnival in Düsseldorf.  This is one trip that you have to make for yourself!

(Auf Deutsch)

Christmas In Singapore

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Unlike many countries where people look forward to celebrating a beautiful white Christmas, this is the time of year where our usually sunny island of Singapore is visited by plenty of rain. However as dreary and unromantic as it may seem, I can assure you it’s quite the opposite. This is because it is this very time of year where the city truly comes to life.

In the past, competitions used to be held among the shopping malls to see who could come up with the most creative and beautiful decorations.  While the official competitions are no longer, shops continue to set out their Christmas decorations in an attempt to attract more curious admirers.  Just like that, a simple street is turned into a symphony of beautifully crafted works of art.

Photo by Singapore's Tourism Board.

My favorite part is the annual Orchard Road light up – the official unveiling of the completed decoration. This is the one night where people from all over the island come over to this single stretch of road just to pass through the glittering street. There is a certain thrill, I might add, about seeing the finished masterpiece come to life.  Perhaps it’s the excitement of trying to guess what the theme of each year would be or simply the festive cheer that is evoked by the shimmering display.  Either way, it truly is a sight to behold.

Festive cheer is not just limited to the main island of Singapore. Here at Capella Singapore on Sentosa Island, we also do our best to bring in the holiday spirit, with a whole line up of exciting activities, special Christmas menus and luxurious hampers filled with delectable goodies. Even the hotel is decked out of to the nines!  So, if you’re thinking of somewhere to spend your Christmas vacation, just remember there’s always is the tropical Christmas in Singapore.