Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Chinese New Year Rush

If there is anything to look for (or dread), it's the two weeks before the Chinese Lunar New Year. This is the time when most Chinese, and visitors (many Malaysians are also flocking in) would come to Chinatown, to shop, eat or just enjoy the gaiety of the atmosphere.

In the old days, the number of stalls must have exceeded more than the 500 stalls said to be set up this year. In those days, they are in all shapes and sizes, noises and all, and during those days, there were more stalls selling clothes (especially for children) and shoes. Yes, in those days, for most of us, this was the time when we would get to have a new set of clothings, complete with shoes. Our parents would try their best to buy them. We never asked how they got the money, probably through sheer savings or loan. No 13th month then, and bonuses weren't much.

At the risk of being trampled on, we kids would hold our hands tight, one sibling to the other, and the youngest probably with Mum. And we waded through the crowd to get what we wanted and could afford. These days, one does not need Chinese New Year to get new clothes .. and so the thrill is gone.

While the contents might have changed, the atmosphere was still there today. Many traditional things such as red packets, decorations in bright red, kuachi (melon seeds), groundnuts, sweets, pussy willows, kamquats, nian-gao (sweet cake) and mandarin oranges are there. Traditional dried food used for cooking for Chinese New Year, or as gifts for the in-laws and potential ones, such as Chinese sausages, waxed duck, and yunnan ham are on grand display. This year, there are even waxed piglets!

The shopping frenzy will continue unabated right till the Chinese New Year Eve (17 Feb this year), certainly much to the delight of the stall holders of Chinatown. With the various groups in Chinatown organising events, despite many satellite towns having their own Chinese New Year bazaars, Chinatown will still attract.

My only hope is that Niu Che Sui (Bullockcartwater or what we all call Chinatown) will continue to hold dear to the hearts of the Singapore Chinese. Many who have their parents or grandparents who grew up in Chinatown will treasure the memories here, no matter how dirty, crowded or poor it was then. It must strive to stay as it is, was, so as to serve as a living museum for future Singaporeans.

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