CNY Food Shutdown

So I made a short video

[click through to the blog if you can’t see the video]

In Singapore, during the first 2 days of Chinese New Year (which are also public holidays), there’s practically no food to be bought. Let me explain.

The majority of the Singapore population is Chinese. No sane and rational Chinese food stall owner will sell food on those first 2 days. In fact, most venues (food or otherwise) will close up shop. In recent years, businesses have started to be open on the second day (they used to only start on the 3rd day) or even the first day, due to the poor economy. This leaves enterprising Malays and Indians who will provide food for the hungry Chinese, and charge exorbitant fees (I think it can go up to 50% higher than their normal price).

You know what’s available? McDonald’s. The fast food restaurant is open every day, public holiday or otherwise. They just get the Malays and Indians (and sometimes even enterprising *cough desperate cough* Chinese) to work. One of the perks of a multi-racial society, I guess.

What’s interesting is that, during those first 2 days of CNY, the entire island of Singapore goes quiet. Except for occasional lion dance troupes with their drums banging along the road, travelling to their next destination. It’s a public holiday, so even the Malays and Indians might just go “What the hashbrown” and just sleep in. I don’t see this even for our National Day.

What did you say? Me, cook? Who do you think I am, Jamie Oliver? I can barely avoid hurting myself just boiling water. [I actually intended to say that in the video, but forgot. I was very nervous. You can’t script too much, and you can’t improvise too much. Another thing learned…]

So, I’m curious. Do you have holidays where your entire country basically shuts down? Let me know in a comment.

How red packets came about

Nian beast
[image by Heather Bickle]

It started with a legend where villagers frightened off a terrible beast called Nian with wearing red clothes, banging pots and pans to make loud noises, and holding out their red packets. It turned out that Nian was scared of the colour red, and red packets were easier to carry. So that’s the 2 sentence summary of how red packets came about.

But red packets could get “misplaced”, and then Nian would eat those poor children and elderly who lost their red packets. Thus money was placed into the red packets so that people were less likely to “misplace” their red packets. That’s why red packets contain money. So that’s the 3 sentence summary (based off the 2 sentence summary above) of why red packets contain money.

Red packets

That’s not very satisfying, is it? So I suggest you read the full legendary story in the February 2011 issue of Singularity, along with some fun facts of the Chinese New Year.

To all Chinese in the world, have a happy Chinese New Year! And to everyone, have a successful and prosperous year ahead!