- Title: Traditional businesses in Singapore see rush of customers ahead of Lunar New Year
- Date: 25th January 2017
- Summary: MASS-PRODUCED CONFECTIONERY ON DISPLAY LUNAR NEW YEAR DECORATIONS ON DISPLAY SINGAPORE (RECENT - JANUARY 21, 2017) (REUTERS) PEOPLE WALKING NEXT TO BUDDHA TOOTH RELIC TEMPLE IN CHINATOWN
- Embargoed: 8th February 2017 10:11
- Keywords: Singapore Lunar New Year business Chinese
- Location: No-Data-Available
- City: No-Data-Available
- Country: Singapore
- Reuters ID: LVA00360KVS5H
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:It is the opening day for a new business in one of Singapore's shopping malls and a lion dance performance is in full swing, bringing luck to the new office and driving away evil spirits ahead of the Lunar New Year.
Ever year, businesses specialising in traditional Chinese crafts and foods see renewed customer enthusiasm as the festival season kicks into gear.
Henry Ng, one of the few lion dance costume makers on the island, is rushing to complete orders ahead of the new year which starts on January 28. His hand-made creations cost around 1,250 SGD ($881), which is almost six times more expensive than a factory-made one. One takes anywhere from five days to a few weeks to make, depending on the complexity and Ng reckons he makes 60-70 per year.
Some lion dance troupes insist on using Ng's creations despite the steep price tag, saying that they are recognisable for the detail and quality of work.
Still, Ng's craft has little future in Singapore.
He started making the costumes because he wanted to leave his office job and has been making them since the '90s. It's a passion and a form of art for him, he says, but an art that is likely to end with him.
"Of course today my kids will not (be) interested," he says, adding that he has encouraged them to go and study so that they can get jobs easily.
On the other hand, some Singapore institutions are likely to welcome the Year of the Rooster and the following years of the Chinese zodiac animal calendar for years to come.
Business is brisk at the Tai Chong Kok bakery which was founded in 1935. It is being run now by a third generation, but Ham Wing Thong, 79, the son of the founder, is still in the kitchen, working with 15 employees in a cramped factory on the northern edge of the island.
Production at the moment is dominated by a confectionery called 'nian gao'. It's popular around the year-end as, according to legends, the sweet was given to the Kitchen God to appease him and to glue his mouth shut with the sticky rice paste so that he can't complain to the Jade Emperor about the family in his annual report.
When spoken, the Chinese word "gao" could either mean "higher" or "cake", so eating nian gao has also come to symbolise moving upwards, such as in job promotions, prosperity or school grades.
Made of rice paste, the steamed cake costs $25 SGD ($17.60) for a small one.
"Keeping tradition helps us Chinese retain the Chinese culture," says Ham. "Nowadays, society has changed with a new generation of people, so it is now on the shoulders of us, the older generation, to retain the tradition and pass it on."
The Lunar New Year is mainly observed by the ethnic Chinese population in Singapore. People are due to complete the bulk of their shopping by Lunar New Year's Eve on Friday (January 27) in anticipation of relatives visiting during the festive season.
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