The 5th of February marked the start of Chinese New Year. Even though I was not in Singapore to usher in the Earth Pig, the customary celebration of welcoming the Lunar New Year did not elude me. While my family members in Singapore celebrated without my husband, our son and I, here in Paris, I whipped up a steamboat reunion dinner for the three of us. And for the first time, we celebrated the Chinese New Year by attending a dinner hosted by the Singapore Club France. It was a great catch up with the Singaporean community and a delightful moment spent introducing and sharing my Chinese traditions to our non-Singaporean friends and guests. Let me take you on a photo-tour of our celebration.
Keeping my family tradition: steamboat reunion dinner
This custom of having steamboat for reunion dinner has long been a tradition in my family. I’ve been away from Singapore for 20 years now and would still have steamboat for my reunion dinner with my husband and our son in Paris on the eve of Chinese New Year. This year is no different. The spread of ingredients is not as elaborate as what we would have back in Singapore. The ambiance is not as boisterous for there are only the three of us. Nonetheless, it is a simple and cosy reunion not lacking in significance. Keeping the tradition – that is the most important.
Auspicious red, orange and all things sweet
During Chinese New Year, it is a firmly held custom that the home should be filled with auspicious red decorations. While I may not plaster our home in Paris with lucky and prosperous couplets depicting good fortune, wealth and longevity, like we used to do when Chinese New Year was a grander affair back in Singapore, I still make sure that we have a prominent display of mandarin oranges, laid sweets, snacks and goodies on our table in celebration.
A sense of belonging
I was at the Chinese New Year dinner organised by the Singapore Club France. Sixty people gathered in a Chinese restaurant in the Chinatown of Paris. Seeking out my fellow country women and men to celebrate the Chinese New Year together provides me with a sense of familiarity and belonging. People from various ethnic groups mingling, eating, celebrating a festive tradition and doing what I fondly missed: speaking Singlish.
For me, it is a gratifying moment to rekindle my bond with Singapore and reaffirm my Singaporean identity.
Enforcing the strength of our racial diversity
Being raised in multi-racial Singapore has taught me to be tolerant of others who are different from me. The partaking in the celebration of the various religious and ethnic festivities gave me a better understanding of our differences. Now that we are far away from our homeland, I have this sense that we still maintain a special affinity with our shared experiences and upbringing. This is the strength of our racial diversity. Sharing a traditional meal together reinforces the acceptance of each other.
Despite our different views, principles or religious beliefs in our mixed-culture Singapore, we hold a high regard for living harmoniously together. The value of multi-culturalism has been instilled in me, and embracing it has enriched my life experiences and taught me to be humble and open-minded while living in my adopted city Paris.
Embracing cultural diversity
At the dinner, we have non-Singaporeans and French friends from our adopted home joining us in the festivity. This showcase of cultural diversity reinforced my embracement of the importance of being inclusive. Sharing my Singaporean cultural traditions with them bridges a greater understanding and fosters our strong relationship.
Yu Sheng: a herald for abundance
2019 is the year of the Brown Earth Pig. And this lovely Yu Sheng pig is prepared by Pat, our President of the Singapore Club in France together with a few club members - thank you very much ladies! Pat was back in Singapore before this dinner function and she brought back the ingredients needed for the Yu Sheng, thus we were able to have the same dish as those back home. The only difference is we have smoked salmon instead of raw salmon. It doesn’t matter to me if it is raw fish or smoked fish as I Lo hei as long as it brings me abundance, prosperity, and good health for the new year.
Lo hei, means tossing good fortune in Cantonese. So, if you want prosperity in the new year, you must mix the ingredients and toss them as high as possible. All these distinct hands uniting in performing a single task: tossing the different bits and pieces and mixing them into one flavoursome whole. That’s what I call, Unity.
Sharing a common trait
“Pigs have a beautiful personality and are blessed with good fortune in life.”
Source: Chinese Zodiac prediction.
Our three dinner guests, born in the year of the Pig. Huat Ah!
The star of the year
“Today’s pig is tomorrow’s bacon!” – Hunter S Thompson
Well, I am not into bacon and I like my pig roasted. Rotund, fat and with big ears - pigs are considered the symbol of wealth and fortune in our Chinese culture. My cholesterol level is the least of my consideration when it comes to tucking into its crispy skin and juicy meat -to wealth and good fortune! And the potential of having an expanded waistline is not a concern while I spend days eating and savouring all the unhealthy but delectable CNY food.
Toasting our heritage
Yum Seng! Cheers! As we toast to a better new year filled with peace and prosperity, may we remember our roots and identity and take pride in being Singaporeans.
Gong Xi Fa Cai to all!