Understanding more the Chinese New Year Celebration in Singapore

By Bui Vinh Nguyen (William), Vietnamese, Nanyang MBA Participant, Intake 2011

Last February, we had a gathering at a beautiful condominium in the western part of Singapore, Bukit Batok, to celebrate the Chinese New Year or CNY, the most important event for among the Chinese. Daniel Ho, a Chinese Singaporean, opened his wonderful home to us, non-Chinese MBA classmates, to learn more about CNY. My classmates were very excited about it because they all wanted to experience a new and different culture. Our ever affable host, Daniel, shared his impressive knowledge about Chinese snacks, served during CNY.

Chinese New Year Goodies Pineapple Tarts
Apart from the pineapple tart (yellow-color pastry), we were also served local Singaporean goodies like peanut puff and pork floss rolls.

We started with the yellow round tarts (see image on the left, yellow-colored pastries in the container) that are popularly known as pineapple tarts. According to Daniel, tradition says that serving pineapple tarts brings good luck as pineapple or ‘fengli’ in Chinese means luck or ‘coming fortune’. Though pineapple tarts are sold all year round especially in tourist areas, serving such during CNY is very auspicious.

We did not only feast our eyes and palate with pastries, but with Ba Kwa (or as what the Chinese call it ‘rou gan’) – a fairly universal Chinese treat. According to Daniel, there is no particular meaning like the pineapple tarts, but with meaning or no meaning, it tasted so good. Like the pineapple tarts and other festive goodies, bak kwa is also available all year round, and is a favorite gift to hand out during CNY or traditional Chinese wedding banquets.

Chinese New Year Goodies
Chinese New Year Goodies

To refresh and quench our thirst, we were served the longan drink. Longan is a fruit commonly found in select Asian countries only. Longans represent a wish for “many good sons.” Another ‘must’ during the New Year was exchanging a pair of large oranges when one visits another person’s house. This act of exchange is to signify an “exchange of good fortune or blessing.”

Kueh Bangkit (white tart-like pastry) is a common Chinese New Year Nyona Delicacy
Kueh Bangkit (white tart-like pastry) is a common Chinese New Year Nyona Delicacy

We also had the sweet treat called “Kueh Bangkit” which is a traditional Nonya CNY delicacy or goodie made with flour, sugar, pandan leaf, coconut milk. It is a cookie that is hard on the outside but melts away in your mouth.

Manuel Salgado with Daughter Mariana
Manuel Salgado with his lovely and adorable daughter, Mariana

Manual Salgado, our Mexican classmate, brought his family to the event. For Manuel, knowing and understanding Chinese tradition is of huge importance because he is considering his career, after the MBA, to focus on Chinese markets. Manuel quips, “For me the CNY celebration is completely new and I was exposed to interesting insights about local traditions, especially in terms of the food and snacks that Singaporeans share during this festive occasion. I enjoyed the “buffet” that was extended with the food contribution of our Korean and Indonesian friends. I also enjoyed bringing my family to these types of gatherings and having a nice moment.”

All of us who attended did not only learn more about Chinese traditions during the Lunar New year, but also knowing about others customs from other Asian countries like Korea and Vietnam, whose people also celebrate the Lunar new year. As a Vietnamese, I was able to share to my peers that in my country Vietnam, we call it Tet Holiday.

Chinese New Year 'feast'
Our Chinese New Year 'feast'

Euisun Yun, our Korean peer attended the gathering together with his family, too. He also brought Korean traditional wine to the event.

Having a highly diverse cohort and learning from different cultures are a few of my main reasons why I chose to take The NANYANG MBA.  I learned a number of things in just one cultural event – I learned how to pronounce Gong Xi Fa Cai correctly and know how to build more rapport with Chinese people.  I learned all of these while enjoying the company of my peers, who are now my lifelong friends.

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