The Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival is also known as Zhong Yuan Jie. In Chinese culture (especially Asian countries), the Chinese Lunar seventh month calendar is regarded as the Ghost Month in which ghosts and spirits, including those of the deceased ancestors, release from the lower realm (Buddhist- the wheel of Samsara) for the whole month. During this month, there will be a grand scale of praying and celebration which will have Getai (singing in Hokkien or Teochew) and dinner with bidding for lucky things on such a night.
This year Dragon Boat Festival falls on this coming Monday 2 June 2014 which is today! There are a few versions of how the history came about. For what I learnt at school it is about Qu Yuan. He was a poet and minister (c. 340–278 BC) of the ancient state of Chu. To cut the long story short, he committed suicide by drowning himself in the Miluo River. The local people raced out to save him but was unable to do so. So they dropped balls of sticky rice (dumpling) into the river so that the fish would eat them instead of Qu Yuan’s body.
If you would like to find watch the Dragon Boat race, do pop by to Brindleyplace Dragonboat Festival. They are celebrating the 15th anniversary this year by setting an ambitious fund-raising target of £50,000 which will be donated to local charity HelpHarryHelpOthers. The race will take place on 28th June 2014, with 20 teams competing in a series of heats in traditional Chinese longboats from Pitcher and Piano, The Water’s Edge in Brindleyplace, to the winning post at The NIA.
Growing up in Singapore I always associated dumplings with the festival as my grandma, my mum and aunties were always gathered around and wrapping them for the festival. But as time passed, dumplings became a very common snack in Singapore which you can get throughout the year.
Dumpling is made of glutinous rice stuffed with different fillings and wrapped in bamboo leaves. The fillings could be: plain, chestnuts, chicken, Chinese sausage, pork, cooked peanuts, salted egg yolk etc.
You might be wondering what is a Bridal Door Game? This is a game played when the groom picks up his bride on the day of the wedding. The bridesmaids will give the groom and his group of ‘brothers’ (best men) a list of tasks/games to do before the groom is allowed to fetch his bride. But they have to pass all the tasks/games!
According to my uncle, this game was not commonly played during his time for his dialect (Teochew or Hokkien). It is more commonly played for Cantonese. Hence he didn’t have any photos to share with me this week.
Nowadays, it is common regardless of the bride and groom’s dialect. I was my sister’s maid of honour but did not fly back to Singapore until one week before the wedding. So her group of bridesmaids had already written a list of tasks/games to play and prepare the items to buy.
Hope you’ve enjoyed my Chinese Wedding series so far where I have covered gifts, tea ceremony, hair combing ceremony and Yue Lao. This week, I am writing about ‘small uncle’ or in English tradition this is called a Page Boy. In a Chinese Wedding, our ‘small uncle’ have a very important role than just walk together with the bride.
Who can be Small Uncle?
Each bride and groom will have one boy each that is closely related to the family. For my sister’s wedding, they decided to ask my son to be their page boy.
Their first task of the wedding day:
On the wedding day, when the groom arrives at the bride’s house, he is not allowed to open his car door but has to wait for the small uncle to open it for him. The small uncle opens the door and brings a pair of oranges to welcome the groom. In return, the groom would give him ang pow (red packet).
This photo shown the bride’s small uncle opening the door for the groom.
Following my recent theme on Chinese traditions, I decided to write about Yue Lao who is the god of marriage. Without him, there wouldn’t be any wedding. According to legend, Yue Lao appeared as an old man under the moon. He is like cupid but instead of holding a bow and arrow, he is holding a red string. If he ties the red string onto the couple, they will fall in love and get married.
In the traditional Chinese wedding custom, the bride and bridegroom walks together holding a length of red cloth with a big red ribbon in the middle. This is symbolism of their match by Yue Lao. I don’t think this has been commonly practised in Singapore.
Why it is necessary for hair combing (梳頭, shūtóu)?
Chinese believe that it will bring long and lasting marriage. So both bride and groom will have their own hair combing ceremony.
When should it be done?
It is conducted on the eve of the wedding by the women, typically the parents.
In this photo of my aunty, the ceremony is done before the groom came to fetch the bride. Both parents said the four blessings:
一梳梳到尾 (1st combing, be together till the end of the road)
二梳百年好合 (2nd combing, happiness and harmony together till old age)
三梳子孙满堂 (3rd combing, blessed with many children and grandchildren)
四梳白发齐眉 (4th combing, blessed with longevity)
Qing Ming festival is a day where you pay respects at your departed loved one’s grave. The day varies each year as it goes according to the Chinese lunar calendar. This year it falls on the 5 April 2014. However, it is an acceptable tradition for the families to pray to their ancestors 10 days before and 10 days after the actual day. This is to avoid major congestions at the cemeteries and temples. As many countries like Singapore are densely populated and short of land, most of the deceased are cremated.
If you would like to know how this festival originated, check out Chinese Culture for more details.
Now I like to share with you some photos of how it looks. Besides offering the traditional types of gold ingots and money, there are now offerings that include high tech gadgets to allow the afterlife to “catch up” with trends!
My granddad passed away in 1989 on Chinese New Year day. So on every Chinese New Year day, besides the celebrations, we will also offer joss sticks. These photos were taken a couple years ago before the 25 years lease is up. Now my family has moved and cremated my granddad and placed his remains along with my grandma who passed away on 24 March 2013.
The Wedding Tea Ceremony is one of the most important events at a Chinese wedding. My mum insisted we must have a tea ceremony because we didn’t get married in a proper Singaporean Chinese way. Mr C and I got married in Bath and it was a small wedding with close family and friends only. So when I told some of our friends that we are having a tea ceremony after the registration, no one understood what that meant. As a result of the mix-up, two of our friends went back home after our registration and missed the wedding dinner. Sometimes it is hard to explain to others why we have a Chinese tea ceremony during the wedding day so I decided to write this post.
Why do we have a tea ceremony?
It is to introduce the newly wedded couple and show respect to their families. There are different types of tea ceremonies according to the groom’s dialect like Teochew, Cantonese etc.
When do we have a tea ceremony?
Nowadays, tea ceremonies combine both the bride and groom’s family as it is so much easier to do everything in one. It can be at any location but it has to be held straight after the registration of marriage or when they reach the Groom’s house.
Last week, I wrote a blog post about Chinese superstitions when entering a hotel room, this week I would like to share some tips of gift ideas to avoid buying for your Chinese friend. I find that it is sometimes not easy to understand one person culture but by learning through interaction or reading will help each other to understand and live in a better and tolerable environment.
Last February, my mum and sister both flew to the UK to visit us. While they were here, we all went on a road trip to Scotland. You can read more about our Scotland trip with Barny here.
We stayed at Premier Inn throughout our holiday at various locations. The last location was Edinburgh, where we happened to have opposite rooms to my sister. I noticed that my sister went through her hotel routine. She knocked on the door and said we are just sharing the room with you for two nights, thank you. This triggered memories for me when I was younger I was told that I must do this hotel routine and I had forgotten! Okay, not really. I never knock the door but each time I go into the hotel room, I will inform ‘them’ quietly that we will be sharing ‘their’ room. Mr C does not believe in these Chinese superstitions thing! He thinks I am totally crazy to do this!
I had two separate unpleasant ghost experiences while staying in a hotel with him while we were in Italy and Japan. So he was used to me doing such crazy things while in a hotel room. I don’t practise these superstitions as much as I used to be because both of my children had started questioning my bizarre behaviour.
Earlier this week, my mum and sister flew over to the UK to visit us. We took them on a road trip to visit Scotland. My sister is a proper Singaporean Chinese who can’t live without noodles or rice. So we went out to eat Chinese food for most of our meals on our trip. I came across an old fashion dumpling restaurant in Edinburgh and they have these paper wrappers for the chopstick. It has been a long time since I have seen these wrappers in restaurants. It triggered memories of how my Japanese friend taught me to make an Origami Chopstick stand. This is to keep the tip of the chopstick clean if the restaurant didn’t provide chopstick stands.
Today, I would like to take you on a journey to see Chinese New Year goodies found in Singapore Chinatown. Living there for over 20 years and going to Chinatown in Outram Park is one of my highlights and recommendations to soak in the new year atmosphere.
Since I moved to the UK, I miss the opportunity to shop for the full range of Chinese New Year goodies. Some of these goodies can be found in UK Chinese supermarkets though so take a closer look if you get chance!
Now here are the streets in Chinatown. These goodies can only bought a month prior to Chinese New Year. All the street stalls will close after 1 – 2 am on Chinese New Year. So if you want to join in the festivities, make sure you time your travel before the New Year!
I have no idea why these varieties are only available for this limited time, like waxed salted food such as duck, sausages, ham etc. Maybe during the olden times, the only presents/gifts you can bring to visit your family and friends are preserved food. Hence the reasons of them being popular.
These are the varieties of waxed salted duck, salted ham, salted fish and Chinese sausages: