The 15 Days of Chinese New Year

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

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

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

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.

Mexican Posadas

Today marks the beginning of the Posadas festivals in Mexico.  Celebrated during the nine days leading up to Christmas, these are perhaps the most colorful ‘fiestas’ in Mexico because of the variety of elements they include.  From the festive decor, to the religious traditions, to the breaking of piñatas, and of course, the lavish meals—there is just so much to see and do during this celebration!

Every family celebrates Posadas with their own special touch.  My family’s Posada party is usually very traditional.  We gather in the house of one of our family members.  The house is decorated for the occasion including a Christmas tree and Nacimiento (a Nativity scene), and each of the women of the family brings a dish, which we all share at the dinner.

The Posada ceremony begins with all of the guests stepping out of the house, while the host stays inside.  We walk the neighborhood singing typical Posada songs, which represent the journey of Joseph and Mary seeking a place to stay overnight.  This “pilgrimage” ends at the hosts’ front door, who after exchanging chants with us welcomes everyone in the house and invites us to a dinner with typical Mexican dishes like pozole, tamales, rajas de chile, atole and buñuelos.

After dinner we gather for breaking of the famous piñata.  This is probably the most well known of the Posada customs and is my favorite part!  According to ritual, each person is blindfolded, and then is asked to hit the piñata, while being cheered on by family.  This practice represents the Catholic belief that people must act in blind faith and follow God in the fight against sin (represented by the piñata).   And when they overcome sin they are blessed with God’s grace (the candy).  Traditionally, the piñata has 7 points that correspond with the 7 deadly sins recognized in Catholicism.

If you visit Capella Ixtapa before Christmas, we’d love to invite you to our Posada celebrations.  It is an excellent opportunity to become part of Mexican traditions.

 

(En Español)

Posadas Mexicanas

Hoy es el inicio de las fiestas de las Posadas en México. Celebradas durante los nueve días antes de la Navidad, estas son probablemente las fiestas más coloridas en México por la variedad de elementos que incluyen. Desde la decoración festiva, a las tradiciones religiosas, romper la piñata, y claro, la espléndida comida. ¡Hay tanto que ver y hacer durante estas celebraciones!

Cada familia celebra las Posadas con su toque personal. La Posada de mi familia es usualmente muy tradicional. Nos reunimos en la casa de uno de los miembros de la familia. La casa se decora para la ocasión incluyendo el árbol de Navidad y el Nacimiento, y cada una de las mujeres de las familias trae un platillo, los cuales compartimos entre todos en la cena.

La ceremonia de la Posada comienza con los invitados saliendo de la casa, mientras los anfitriones se quedan dentro de ella. Caminamos por el vecindario cantando las típicas canciones de Posada, las cuales representan la travesía de José y María buscando un lugar para pasar la noche. Esta peregrinación termina de vuelta en la puerta del anfitrión el cual después de intercambiar cánticos con nosotros nos da la bienvenida a su casa y nos invita a cenar platillos mexicanos típicos como pozole, tamales, rajas de chile, atole y buñuelos.

Después de la cena nos reunimos para romper la famosa piñata. Esto es probablemente la costumbre más conocida de las Posadas y también ¡mi parte favorita! De acuerdo a la tradición, cada persona se le vendarán los ojos y después se le pedirá que le pegue a la piñata, mientras el resto de la familia lo anima y orienta. Esta práctica representa la creencia Católica sobre que la gente debe actuar a fe ciega y seguir a Dios en la lucha contra el pecado (representado por la piñata). Y cuando logran vencer al pecado serán premiados con la gracia de Dios (los dulces). Tradicionalmente la piñata tiene 7 picos que corresponden a los 7 pecados capitales del Catolicismo.

Si visitas Capella Ixtapa antes de la Navidad, nos encantaría invitarte a nuestras celebraciones de Posada. Será una excelente oportunidad para ser parte de las costumbres Mexicanas.

 

(In English)