Gong Xi Fa Chai typical celebration meal.

Gong Xi Fa Chai

By David Chiam, Mechanical Engineer, SIGMADESIGN Singapore

The traditional Chinese New Year period lasts for 15 days beginning on the first day of the New Year which falls between January 21 and February 20 depending on the Chinese calendar, a lunisolar calendar that has evolved over centuries. This year, Chinese New Year fell on February 19th. Most people do not celebrate for 14 days, but return to work on the 5th day of Chinese New Year celebrations. Chinese New Year is a special time of year that every Chinese child looks forward to as it is when they receive red packets full of money and are doted over by their grandparents, uncles and aunties.  As for the parents, it is the time of the year to be giving out the red packets and visiting all the relatives… and wondering “Did we forget Aunt Dolly this year?”

Gong Xi Fa Chai typical celebration meal.

Gong Xi Fa Chai typical celebration meal.

One significant event of the Chinese New Year tradition is the reunion dinner. It’s very similar to Thanksgiving in the United States except that turkey is rarely served. It’s the one time of the year where extended family will gather to catch up and enjoy a festive and traditional meal together.  Common foods on the table are fish, abalone and pork.

New Year’s Day starts bright and early. Everyone dresses in their New Year’s best and makes their way to a temple or church to thank God for a good year and pray for a better year ahead. The afternoon involves visiting with relatives. Visiting friends and acquaintances is customarily done on the second or third day.

For me and my family, this year’s Chinese New Year involved an hour and a half flight back to my hometown of Penang in Malaysia. We left 4 days before the Chinese New Year to beat the throngs of Malaysians heading out from Singapore. My family and I flew back to Singapore on the 3rd day of Chinese New Year after a wonderful time catching up with my parents and siblings and gorging on wonderful Penang food.

From my family to yours, Gong Xi Fa Chai and have a prosperous year ahead.

(If you literally translate “Gong Xi Fa Chai,” it means “wishing you enlarge your wealth,” but the phrase is generally used as Happy New Year.)

About David Chiam:

David is a Mechanical Engineer working in SIGMADESIGN’s Singapore office. He has worked for SIGMADESIGN for almost 2 years. David grew up in Penang, Malaysia where his parents and sibling still live.  He obtained his Bachelor of Science in Aerospace engineering and M.Sc. in mechanical Engineering from State University of New York at Buffalo. What he likes most about being a Mechanical Engineer is the challenge of coming up with  elegant, simple solutions to complex problems.  David currently lives in Singapore with his wife Wendy and 2 children, Kaitlyn and Daniel.