I always enjoy running my Chinese New Year printing workshops in January. Students recently enjoyed a special series of seasonally inspired printing sessions to make decorative table runners. Students used a library of Peranakan tile designs, Chinese auspicious flowers and Chinese written characters to create gorgeous personalised designs. Gong Xi Fa Cai!
Why Are Winter Flowers Popular in Singapore?
Since the government ramped up its anti-mozzie campaign, my house has been proudly pot-plant free. It suits my less-than-green thumb, but I admit that I miss having flowers and plants in the house. A recent visit to Fairprice Extra (the Super K-mart of Singapore) saw me come away with a huge bunch of peonies and plum blossoms - all created from hardy plastic! The saleslady and I had a good time chatting about the play on words for ‘flower’ in Chinese. There is a saying "Hua Kai Fu Gui (花开富貴)", which means, ‘When Flowers Bloom, Prosperity Comes’. In addition to looking nice, these flowers each have their own symbolism. For example, peach blossoms symbolise growth, prosperity, long life and romance - and thus popular with some single people! At any rate, these cold climate flowers remind me of a Chinese winter land, which is a refreshing thought in the tropical heat of Singapore.
Why is (Australian) Abalone Everywhere?
I’ve often noticed the expensive cans of abalone in glass cabinets at the supermarket checkout, but packing crates full of the stuff is suddenly almost blocking aisles. Another homophone (words that share the same pronunciation but have different meanings), abalone is known in Chinese as baoyu, which can also mean "assurance" (bao) and "surplus" (yu) in the year ahead. It’s a popular food to eat for business people, and since SMEs make up 99% of business in Singapore, that means almost everyone! In fact, you’ll see it commonly in new year corporate hampers and auspicious gift packs.
Why So Many Broomsticks?
Brooms of every kind are still popular in Singapore, even the type made of long twigs seen more often in children’s story tales. At this time of the year, they feature prominently at the front of our local hardware store along with cleaning cloths and storage baskets. I haven’t lived in China, but I noticed that as a high-school student in Japan, cleaning in mid winter was a big deal. I have clear memories of cleaning dusty old classrooms while shivering in my plastic slippers and school uniform. Wringing icy water in the winter wasn't much fun - but I guess was good for the soul! At least in Singapore, the weather is a bit more conducive to cleaning. And for those with a more relaxed outlook on having everything in its place, you could put off cleaning until the last minute. Why? Because after Chinese New Year arrives, one is not supposed to have any brooms around lest your luck is swept away. But with all the floral decorations and goodies around, you won't be short on that!