Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Chinese New Year in Singapore

From Bangkok, we flew to Singapore, arriving just in time for the Chinese New Year celebrations, shepherding in the Year of the Goat - or ram, or sheep, depending on which version you go with.

We decided to head into Chinatown to see the preparations.

It was busy. With the same frenzy of people in the UK doing their last minute gift shopping on Christmas Eve, or bulk buying food because they've heard there is going to be a bit of snow, people were hurriedly buying food, firecrackers, brightly coloured decorations and of course, a selection of gaudy goats!

We managed to catch a few of the Lion dances during the festivities period, mostly the cai qing style ones. The lions here are the Southern Chinese lions, each operated by two people, and they are accompanied by three musicians.

The troupes are usually from kung fu schools, and the movements of the lion area combination of marshal arts and acrobatics.

For the cai qing, the lions are enticed to the doorway of a business by cabbage or other greens hanging in the doorway, along with a red envelope containing lucky money.

The money is the reward for the troupe. The lions pluck and 'eat' the vegetables, and sometimes oranges, by taking them into their mouths, and the two guys inside then tear up the cabbage leaves and peel the oranges. The torn leaves and orange peel, sometimes together with a few sweeties, are then 'spat out'.

Apparently the reason that this is so desirable comes partly from the sound of the Cantonese word cai, which can mean cabbage/greens and fortune, so it is believed to bring good luck to the business.

Similarly, the Cantonese word for the mandarin oranges used sounds like the word for gold, so leaving the orange segments for the owner and staff brings them good fortune.

As this is Singapore's 50th year, one of the bigger celebrations was a lion dance at the Gardens by the Bay, where 50 lions took part. We had arrived early, which was just as well, as we got a spot right at the front; by the time it started, the crowd was at least six people deep.

The dances themselves were not the most intricate, it was predominantly a mass cai qing but it was quite impressive to see so many of the lions in one place. And they did include a bit of Dragon dancing as well.

For Chinese New Year itself, we joined locals and tourists down at the Marina. They had a big display of zodiac and other lanterns, which were most impressive. We did what all of the locals were doing, and found the ones that correspond to our own zodiac signs - the monkey for Nic and the pig for me.

They also had food stalls, traditional performances, a high wire act and the grand finale fireworks display.

Gōngxǐ fācái

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