As Singapore prepares to usher in the Year of the Goat, Singapore’s Chinatown is the place to be. There are lanterns and decorations up, performances in the square behind the Buddha Tooth Temple, and a Chinese New Year Market for last minute items. I went out to Chinatown twice this week to practice my photography and engage in the festivities. Since I have married into a Chinese family, the Chinese New Year has become a much bigger holiday for me. Coming from Los Angeles, of course I’d been to many Chinese New Year parades and festivals, but I didn’t really know what Chinese New Year is about other than the zodiac.
The Lunar New Year is a family holiday, and it is the big holiday in Chinese-speaking countries. Everywhere you go in Singapore, there will be decorations and Chinese New Year songs. If you spend any amount of time in the supermarket or mall in Singapore, you will have these songs in your head for the entire month leading up to Chinese New Year because they play them non-stop just as western shops play Christmas carols. The New Year lasts 15 days, but the preparations and Reunion Dinner that occur prior to Day 1 of the Chinese New Year are just as important and stretch the New Year season out to about 6 weeks.
The first order of business most families undertake leading up to the New Year is to Spring clean the entire home. This must be done prior to the first day of the New Year to clean out the bad luck of the year and make way for the good luck coming in. In addition to cleaning, people usually decorate their homes and purchase or prepare many snacks and foods to be shared with visitors.
One of the many reasons I started this blog was to work on my photography as I consider travel my biggest passion and I think being able to take photos of anything enhances your travels. As I’m still a beginner with a long way to go, I occasionally take photography workshops. Last week I took a Night Street Photography course with Nikon School Singapore. The venue was Chinatown so most of the photos in this post are from that workshop, but Jeremy and I did take a separate trip to Chinatown for some shopping and photos as well. As you can see in the top image here, the crowds are out in force for the Chinese New Year Market. I don’t even think we were able to capture how crowded it really was, and it was slammed both week nights I was there. In the center left photo are typical door and wall hangings for Chinese New Year. Another typical wall hanging during this time is shown at bottom. Calligraphers write out good wishes or couplets from a poem for families to hang to bring good fortune. Those are lion dance puppets on the middle right. They are for tourists.
These are the streets surrounding the marketplace area, and I took all of these photos during the photo walk I was on. The goat lanterns are the same one at the top of the post, just earlier in the evening. The bottom right photo shows lanterns of gold coins, symbolizing good fortune. These lanterns hang throughout the area. The monochrome side street was taken nearby. One of the suggestions the Nikon instructors gave was to shoot night shots in monochrome where there are less vibrant colors to create mood. I am now addicted to shooting in monochrome as I love the effect it gives, especially in a Heritage zone, such as Singapore’s Chinatown.
Chinese New Year snacks: At top, dried and candied fruits. In the next row, Bee Cheng Hiang, one of Singapore’s popular bakkwa shops and a shot of some sliced pork bakkwa. If you have never eaten bakkwa and like pork, let me tell you, this is pork in one of its best forms. It tastes like candy-coated bacon, and it costs a fortune. On average, a kilogram (about 2 pounds) of bakkwa will set you back SGD $50 (USD $40), and the closer it is to Chinese New Year, the higher the price as it is considered a perfect snack to have out for visiting friends and family for its red color. Peanuts and cookies in the next row are also traditional. My favorite of the Chinese New Year cookies are peanut cookies. All of these snacks are wrapped in red packaging. The red lidded see-through tubs for Chinese New Year cookies are customary. At bottom, there are jellied sweets. I don’t know as much about this type of treat, but the guys at these booths were full of energy and celebrated any time anyone purchased anything. They brought a fun vibe to the market that reminded me of the night markets in Taipei.
Chinatown Seafood is my favorite place to eat in Chinatown and I like the look of this building with the lanterns so I thought I’d give it a shout out here.
Across from Chinatown Seafood is this statue of a Samsui woman. These women immigrated to Singapore between 1920 and 1940 and are known for their red scarf hats. They contributed to the growth of Singapore through their work in construction.
My last photo was taken from above to show the hustle and bustle of the market. I thought it would be appropriate to end with the God of Fortune watching over the festivities.