The supermarkets are packed. Chinatown is bustling. Offices are quiet. Everywhere you turn, you see red. Ah, yes – the biggest holiday season in Singapore is upon us: Chinese New Year.
For those who don’t know, the celebration of the Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year) will start this weekend. Chinese New Year celebrations traditionally last for two weeks, during which people travel back to their hometowns, visit family and friends, eat, laugh, reminisce, and open their doors to a brand new year and (hopefully) lots of good luck.
In Singapore, where ~75% of the population is ethnically Chinese, the Lunar New Year is by far the largest and most widely celebrated holiday. Chinese New Year is a floating holiday, with the exact dates dependent on the lunar calendar. But typically, the two week celebration falls somewhere between the last week in January and the end of February. This year, the New Year starts on Sunday, February 10.
The Chinese New Year celebrations have a rich cultural history, and I invite you to explore it with me over the next two weeks, as we visit, eat, and celebrate with my Singaporean Chinese family… .
..and the experience actually starts a week or two before the New Year. Traditionally, the days leading up to the New Year are spent doing a very thorough cleaning, to rid the house of bad luck/spirits (and dirt!), and to prepare a clean and open place to welcome the new year, and good fortune. So last Sunday after church, we fueled up with a tasty Chinese lunch at Min Jiang @ one north [5 Rochester Park Rochester Park]. The restaurant does not offer traditional, push-cart dim sum, but does have a small selection of dim sum offerings available.
They are specifically known for their Peking duck (must pre-order!). We shared half a roast duck around our table of four. The staff takes all the work out of eating duck (I felt quite spoiled). First, the duck is carved, table-side:
When you order Peking duck, it is usually served in two ways (you get both). At Min Jiang, they provide a few small slices of skin to dip in sugar and eat “straight” – this tasty but oily delicacy was a bonus. Then, they take the sliced meat + skin, shown on the platter above, and wrap it with some veggie and sauce in a thin crepe. Min Jiang offers both a traditional style and a Szechuan style wraps. Finally, the remaining duck meat is fried with rice and veggies and served on a lettuce leaf.
Overall, the food was very good. Min Jiang @ one north isn’t a regular dim sum restaurant. The selections are far fewer, and and the dining experience is more refined. Although the price point was certainly higher, we found the food to be quite tasty (even my mother-in-law approved!). I was also pleased to find that we didn’t overeat they way we typically would at a traditional dim sum restaurant. Each order provided enough for everyone to try, but not gorge. We finished feeling satisfied, but not stuffed. Good thing, too – because now that we were properly fed, it was time to tackle some cleaning! First, we waited out a tremendous rain storm that dumped rain juuuuust as we were standing up from our table:
Fortunately, the rain cooled things off, and we were glad for that. We headed back to my in-laws house and spent the afternoon washing windows, cleaning the wrought iron gates that cover the windows, polishing teak, and doing any other miscellaneous chores that require climbing, ladders, and/or wiggling into small spaces.
Between the rain, my sweat, and buckets of washing water, I was soaked – but happy. I do believe that physical labor is good for us, and the day was a welcome break from many spent sitting at the computer. The drizzle continued throughout the afternoon, and helped keep the air cool.
After a full afternoon of chores, Mom rewarded us with a home-cooked meal:
We headed home, tired and thankful that our crazy life journey has brought us back to Singapore for the time being. Come back soon, because the New Year celebrations are just getting started, and I’ve got lots more fun stuff to share!
What’s your pet peeve chore?
Any guess as to how many shots it took to get the rain drop photo above?