This week, Chinese people around the world will usher in the Year of the Ox with family and friends, with happy foods and customs that are all supposed to bring good luck after a turbulent year.
In tightly controlled Singapore, the government lets the Celebrations take place during a time of Covid, but their leaders beg the nation to exercise restraint in verbalizing Chinese New Year sentences or risking fines and jail sentences.
According to the country’s recently updated laws, which include a popular ritual called « Lo -Hei « , a » strong expression of auspicious slogans « is not permitted in restaurants.
Common in Singapore and Malaysia, the custom revolves around a dish called yusheng, which is a mixture of chopped vegetables, canned fruit and raw fish , crispy strips and spices. When ingredients and spices are added, the people gathered around the dish cry out for abundance, love, career success and good grades. The group then uses chopsticks to mix the ingredients and toss them in the air to usher in the New Year with heartier wishes, which is usually a boisterous and messy affair.
In the run-up to the Year of the Ox, which is Dec. Starting February, ethnic Chinese residents, who make up the majority of Singapore’s 5.7 million population, typically have multiple meals of the colorful dish.
« When throwing yusheng, please leave your masks on and scream not the auspicious phrases – say them in your hearts instead, « said Singapore’s Prime Minister
Lee Hsien Loong
said on January 23, the one year anniversary of the country’s first confirmed coronavirus case. The small city-state has since recorded nearly 60,000 cases, including 29 deaths. In late 2020, some rules for indoor and public gatherings were relaxed after new cases fell sharply.
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Scientists say the coronavirus spreads easiest in close, face-to-face interactions, especially in poorly ventilated areas and when people speak, shout, or sing loudly. To this end, Singapore has also banned toasting weddings and « any verbal exhortation of goodwill or honor in relation to other matters » in food and beverage establishments in its Covid-19 regulations.
Koh Beng Liang, a IT consultant, took matters into his own hands. He created a mobile website that allows users to play voice recordings of a variety of phrases, including shouting « Huat ah! » meaning « Let’s get rich! »
Several local celebrities, including a television actor, radio DJ, and former news anchor, quickly mobilized to record their voices for Mr. Koh’s location in Mandarin and six other Chinese dialects.
Karen Mah, a 21-year-old administrator, came to a seafood restaurant last weekend to celebrate the coming New Year with six family members. There was a printed and laminated barcode on her desk for quick access to Mr. Koh’s website wireless speaker for amplifying tones from cell phones. Both were delivered from the restaurant.
« I had a little urge, » Huat ah! « To call, » said Ms. Mah, but she managed to hold back. « It’s good to have the speaker as it sounds louder, » she said, deciding that it was better to throw the dish quietly than not to do it at all.
The lo-Hei ritual is an integral part of the Chinese New Year celebrations in Singapore and growing in popularity, said Ng Kong Ling, a food blogger. The platter with raw fish, chopped vegetables and spices comes from the southern provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi in China. In the 1960s, four Singapore chefs did some improvisation and restaurants started shouting favorable phrases to lighten the festive mood, added Ms. Ng.
Yum Sing, a restaurant that serves yusheng, was preparing Prepared for a business crisis by preparing large posters earlier this year asking customers to “throw like a boss while shouting auspicious words” and saying, “The higher you throw, the more you will prosper! ”
The sign was still up at the entrance of the venue, although the guests used phrases like“ Nian Nian You Yu ”, which means“ abundance throughout the year ”when adding the raw fish slices, or“ Bian Di Huang Jin ” No longer allowed to verbalize, « Means » May the ground be covered with gold « when deep-fried flour chips are poured on the chopped vegetables.
» This is a real disappointment for us, « said Eugene Lim, the 46-year-old deputy General Manager of Yum Sing. In order to create a happy and festive atmosphere for the guests, he and his crew of waiters decided to make a continuous audio recording that could be played when the dish was served and the ingredients were added one by one.It took numerous rehearsals, with some waiters pretending to be guests with the actual dish in front of them to get the sounds, timing and musical effects right. The harder part says e Mr. Lim, it was to prevent diners from shouting during meals. « When they see us serving the dish they get excited and get up and get their chopsticks ready, » he said, adding that some people inevitably blurt out auspicious sentences. His servers are now going through the rules beforehand to remind guests of the law.
Bernice Yap, a 32-year-old business development manager, was at the restaurant last weekend and had her first impression of a quiet Lo-Hei . « It’s very weird because the whole experience is about throwing and saying the good wishes, » she said, adding that the server was also having trouble keeping up with the restaurant’s audio recording while doing the Dish prepared. Her husband, Glenn Argent, a 41-year-old old strategy manager fondly remembered the past few years when auspicious sentences were shouted with gusto. « When you do, there’s a lot of excitement. And the lo-Hei tastes so good afterwards, » he said.
This time after the dish was served the family looked at each other and clapped and came to that He concluded that it was probably for the better. « Otherwise, we’d try to hit the ceiling with the throw and cause a mess, » added Argent.
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