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Celebrating Lunar New Year 2024 at Accedo

Vanessa Mok

People & Culture Partner

February 7, 2024


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Banner photo by Tuấn Kiệt Jr

Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival, is a vibrant and significant celebration across Southeast and South Asia. This annual festival holds great cultural and historical importance, with its roots deeply embedded in the lunar calendar. As the lunar cycle determines the date of the event, Lunar New Year typically falls between late January and early February, marking the beginning of a new year according to the traditional lunisolar calendar.

In this blog post, we will explore the customs and practices of the Lunar New Year, focusing specifically on the festivities in the dynamic cities of Hong Kong and Singapore. These bustling metropolises, where our offices are located, come alive with a myriad of traditions, rituals, and joyful gatherings during the festival. From vibrant street decorations and awe-inspiring parades to family reunions and delectable feasts, the Lunar New Year in Hong Kong and Singapore showcases the rich cultural heritage and the spirit of unity the festival embodies. 

1. Lunar New Year's Eve Practices

On Lunar New Year's Eve (大年三十), families engage in a range of symbolic practices to welcome the new year with good fortune and prosperity. It begins with a thorough cleaning of the home, known as "sweeping the dust (大掃除)" which symbolizes sweeping away any bad luck or negative energy accumulated from the previous year and making way for a fresh start. Every nook and cranny is meticulously cleaned, and clutter is removed to create a clean and harmonious environment for the arrival of good luck. 

Photo by Yuwei Shaw on Unplash

Decoration plays another significant role in setting the festive atmosphere with red as the predominant color used, symbolizing luck and happiness. Traditional paper cuttings, couplets with auspicious phrases, lanterns, and banners are hung  up, not only to bring joy to the surroundings, but also serve as a way to ward off evil spirits and attract blessings for the coming year.

Photo by DragonImages on Adobe stock

Family members will gather together for a reunion dinner, a lavish feast that brings family members from near and far to share a celebratory meal. Traditional dishes with symbolic meanings are meticulously prepared and served. Dumplings symbolize wealth and abundance, fish represents prosperity and longevity noodles signify a long and fulfilling life. The dinner is a time for family members to express their love and gratitude, exchange well wishes, and appreciate the warmth of familial connections.

Staying up on Lunar New Year's Eve is a common tradition in many East Asian cultures. It is believed that staying awake through the night, known as "Shousui (守歲)" in Chinese, brings good luck and longevity to one's parents. The practice is deeply rooted in cultural and familial significance. Staying up until midnight is significant as it marks the beginning of the Lunar New Year. Families may spend the night playing traditional games such as mahjong, watching special television programs, and engaging in other festive activities. 

2. Exchanging Blessings 

Both in Singapore & Hongkong, the Chinese will go visiting family, relatives, and friends with mandarin oranges, and greet everyone with auspicious phrases such as “Xin Nian Kuai Le 新年快樂” meaning, “Happy Lunar New Year” or “Gong Xi Fa Cai 恭喜發財” meaning, “Happiness and Prosperity”.  In return, the host will also return you the same number of oranges as a form of exchanging blessings. The married couples and the elders will give red packets aka (ang bao in Singapore) to the kids and non-married ones as a form of blessing. The one who is receiving the red packet will greet them back with auspicious phrases. 

Photo by Cavan for Adobe

3. Food Culture

One of the highlights of this festive occasion is the rich food culture. Each dish is deeply rooted in traditions and symbolism, and they carry auspicious meanings and wishes for the year ahead. Let us introduce you to the special dishes enjoyed in Singapore and Hong Kong respectively. 

In Singapore, an essential dish enjoyed only during the Lunar New Year is yusheng (鱼生), a salad that means “abundant life” and the custom of tossing and reciting auspicious phrases. This activity is called “Lo Hei” (Cantonese pronunciation) and it translates to “tossing up good fortune”. This ritual involves a group of people gathered around a massive plate with chopsticks, tossing its contents vehemently while saying auspicious phrases before eating it. The dish is made up of colorful vegetables such as radish, carrots, ginger, pomelo and, raw fish or sliced abalone, and mixed with oil and plum sauce. The practice of “Lo Hei” is widespread in Singapore, and is eaten within families or at large events, where non-Chinese also partake in the practice, along with friends and colleagues. 

Photo by tang90246 on Adobe Stock

A particularly unique dish that is closely associated with Hong Kong's Lunar New Year celebrations is Poon choi (盆菜). Originating in the village communities, the dish is prepared by layering different ingredients such as pork, seafood, vegetables, and mushrooms in a bowl, which is then soaked in a savory gravy and slowly heated over a stove. The combination of these ingredients represents abundance, wealth, and good fortune. The dish symbolizes unity and togetherness as it is shared and enjoyed by family members and friends.

4. Last day of the Lunar New Year

The Lunar New Year festival is over 15 lunar days. On the last day, the Chinese Lantern Festival is held. It is called Yuan-Xiao (元宵). People will eat glutinous rice balls (tangyuan), and express their love and gratitude to their families and friends. Tangyuan is made from glutinous rice flour with stuffing in a round shape, often it's stuffed with sugar, walnuts, sesame, bean paste, and others. The round shape of the balls and the bowls where they are served, come to symbolize the family togetherness.

Photo by YamisHandmade

From traditions to food, we hope you’ve enjoyed the insight into the Lunar New Year  celebrations in Singapore and Hong Kong. As we begin to prepare for the beginning of the festivities this weekend, ushering in the Year of the Dragon, we want to wish you a prosperous year ahead, with good fortune and happiness. We hope you can connect with loved ones, and enjoy celebrating the occasion. 

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