Yusheng - without fish

Some of these unorthodox versions cannot even be called raw fish salad because they do not feature fish

Pastry chef Pang Kok Keong's two daughters enjoy tossing yusheng during Chinese New Year but the six- and seven- year-olds do not fancy the shredded greens and are squeamish about eating raw fish slices.

The chief operating office of the Sugar Daddy Group, which owns French patisserie chain Antoinette, says: "As traditional yusheng is mostly made up of vegetables, the girls don't enjoy eating it, but they like tossing the salad."

That inspired him to create a yusheng which can be enjoyed by his family of five and the idea of a dessert version was hatched late last year.

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Bai Tian Gong 2015 - Hokkiens’ New Year (拜天宫 - 福建人的新年)

The 9th Day of Chinese New Year Festival
A pair of sugarcane plants are used by the Hokkiens usually placed one on each side of the offering table or  the front door of the house

On the 9th day of the first month of the Lunar Calendar, it would be the celebration known to the Hokkiens as Bai Tian Gong’, which literally means ‘praying the Heaven God’.

During a Chinese New Year of the Ming Dynasty, there was a bandit raid in the province of Hokkien. These intruders however robbed and burned down villages, attacked and killed the villagers. The people of the villages were in fear and escaped from their burnt villages during the night. Some of the villagers then hid themselves among the sugarcane fields. Needless to say, those villagers prayed to Heaven God (Tian Gong) for salvation during their hideout. The pursuing intruders spent many days trying to locate and hunt them but to no avail. On the ninth day of that Chinese New Year, they finally gave up and returned to their region. The Hokkiens then happily emerged from the sugar cane fields, and praising the blessings of the celestial deities and owing gratitude to the sugarcane plants for saving them from destruction. Thus, in all Hokkien celebrations, the sugarcane plant is given prominence.

Realizing that it was also the 9th Day of the Chinese New Year and coincidentally the birthday of Heaven God, they decided to make votive offerings and prayers to the Jade Emperor for their salvation. There are many version of the Hokkiens’ Bai Tian Gong stories. Whichever it is, the Hokkiens believe that our life and prosperity are granted by the Heaven God. On the eve of the 9th day, a pair of sugarcane plants are used by the Hokkiens usually placed one on each side of the offering table or the front door of the house. The pair of the sugarcane symbolises unity, cooperation and strength. The sugarcane itself is a symbol of harmony and a token which can bring good and ‘sweet’ results. The very straightness of the sugarcane stem also ensures that the Hokkiens can become a clan of honest and sincere people.

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9th Day of Chinese New Year - Hokkien's Birthday

On the 9th day of the first month of Lunar calendar, it would be the special celebration known to Hokkien people as the “Phai Thien Kong” which literally means “praying the Heaven God”. This day is especially important to Hokkiens because they believe it is the birthday of the Jade Emperor (Thien Kong) who protected the ancestors of Hokkien people from ruthless army in ancient China.

During the massacre, all of the Hokkien people hid in a sugarcane plantation on the 8th - 9th days of Lunar New Year, coinciding with the Thien Kong or Jade Emperor's birthday. This is why the Hokkien people offer thanksgiving prayers to him on this day. Although these prayers are traditionally performed only by Hokkiens but more and more non-Hokkien people have begun to join in to pray for a good year ahead.

In Lunar calendar, the day starts at 11pm. And therefore all the Hokkiens start their prayers at 11pm on the 8th day of Chinese New Year but preparations start well in advance. On this night, the Hokkiens set up a table (draped in a red tablecloth) full of food which are to serve to the Jade Emperor. Some of the most popular items they must have are sweet cakes (thni kueh), red tortoise buns (ang koo), red-colored buns (mee koo), prosperity cakes (huat kueh) and bright pink miniature pagodas.

The Hokkiens made piles of kim cua (folded pieces of gold paper), these papers are hung from the sugarcanes before being burnt as a thanksgiving offering to the Thien Kong. After these gold papers are set ablaze, the family members then took the stalks of sugarcane from the altars (a pair of sugarcanes are usually used) and threw them into the flames. There will be fireworks and firecrackers that mark the beginning of the ninth day as well as the survival of the Hokkien people.

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Hokkien New Year
“Gold” paper (kim chua) is hung from the sugarcanes, and this is later burnt as a thanksgiving offering to the Jade Emperor. A pair of sugarcanes are usually used, and traditionally these are tied to the sides of the altar

There is a saying that states you have not truly experienced Chinese New Year until you have celebrated it in Penang. The reason behind this is because Penangites celebrate Hokkien New Year in addition to Chinese New Year. You must be thinking – whatt? Hokkien New Year? How is this different from Chinese New Year?

Basically, Hokkien New Year is celebrated on the 9th day of Chinese New Year. (If you remember, I previously mentioned that Chinese New Year is a fifteen day celebration). For us Hokkiens, it is celebrated with more grandeur compared to the 1st day. According to mum, this is because the Hokkiens were in hiding for the first eight days of Chinese New Year, and only had the chance to celebrate the New Year on the 9th day. The belief is that the Jade Emperor (Thee kong – translated as “king of the heavens”) protected our Hokkien ancestors from being caught, which is why we offer thanksgiving prayers to him.

Although these prayers are traditionally only performed by Hokkiens, more and more non-Hokkien people have started to join in to pray for a good year ahead.

The prayers start at 11pm on the 8th day of Chinese New Year (in the Lunar calendar, the day starts at 11pm instead of at midnight), but preparations start well in advance. I went round with my mum to buy the fruits and flowers earlier in the day, and brought my camera along in the hope of capturing the festive air of it all. I must say I got quite a few strange glances from people, they must have thought I was completely crazy. Oh well.

Sugarcanes are an integral part of the thanksgiving prayers. This is because the Hokkiens hid out in sugarcane plantations, which managed to prevent them from harm. This is the only time of year when you will see this sugarcanes being sold all over town, and as you can imagine, it takes a bit of maneuvering to get the long stems into your car!

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Bai Tian Gong - An Unignorable Tradition of The Hokkiens
Sugar cane, roasted pork, red turtle cake, ritual money, the house of Jade Emperor, fruits

Mr. Gooi and his family members were busy preparing for Bai Tian Gong on the eve of celebration, which was the 8th day of the first month in Chinese lunar calendar.

Bai Tian Gong is a meaningful celebration for the Hokkiens since their ancestors emigrated from China long time ago. No matter which state they are staying now, they still inherit this tradition to their descendant. This cultural continuity can be seen on Mr. Gooi’s family.

Mrs. Gooi and her daughter woke up 6 am on the eve of Bai Tian Gong. It was because they were going to the market to buy the offerings which were needed for the celebration. The necessities of Bai Tian Gong including a pair of sugar cane, red turtle cake, huat kueh, pineapple and several fruits.  Fortunately, the seller of sugar cane provided home delivery service, so that they could get rid of the burden of carrying the long sugar cane to next destination.


The 9th Day of Chinese New Year Festival - The Birthday of the Jade Emperor 天日
The Jade Emperor ritual (bài tiān gōng) at Yuzun Temple in Sanxing, Ilan, Taiwan. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Do you know the Jade Emperor? He is the Zeus of Chinese mythology. As the head of all deities, he is the ruler of Heaven, Earth and Hell. It is said that the ninth day of the Chinese New Year is his birthday – one of the largest celebrations in Heaven to which all of the gods will be invited. Thus, today is also called 天日 (tiān rì, the Day of Heaven.)

The Jade Emperor is a busy guy during the Chinese New Year. As early as December 25th of the lunar calendar, he disguises himself as an out-of-town visitor and travels down to earth to make sure his rulings have been just and wise. If he sees something unfair, the local gods who are supposed to protect the neighborhood from harm and danger, will be put “under fire”. When the Jade Emperor returns to Heaven, waves of worships and rituals start (especially among people believing in Taoism) in the hope that the Emperor will protect their families in the coming year.

There are many stories regarding the Emperor’s birthday, and one of them talks about his youngest daughter 七仙女 (Qī xiān nǚ, the seventh fairy.) She was not only the youngest, but also the Jade Emperor’s favorite little girl. She fell in love with a layman called Dong Yong who only offers her the best in the world. Therefore, in ancient China, people would gather under osmanthus trees on this day, singing the most beautiful songs to lure her down to earth. If the songs have made her happy, it would be the best present to the Emperor, who in return, would promise a prosperous year.

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The Birthday of Jade Emperor, King of Heaven

According to Taoism (Daoism), the Jade Emperor lives in the 33rd heaven and governs 33 heavens; so he is the king of heavens. Jade Emperor is a vegetarian. To celebrate his birthday, Chinese prepare three bundles of long noodle, three tea cup with green tea, five different kinds of fruit and six different kinds of dry vegetables to worship Jade Emperor. But people also prepare five animal sacrifices, different sweet cakes and turtle cake (turtle is a symbol of longevity) on a different table for Jade Emperor's guardian soldiers.

To show the sincerity, many people take bath on the 8th lunar night, then wait for the first minute of 8th lunar day to begin the ceremony with their clean body. After the ceremony, Chinese explode the firecrackers. That's why we can hear the scattered sound of fire crackers from midnight to sunrise.

The temple of  Jade Emperor will be crowded as the Chinese New Year day since the night of 8th lunar day for those people unable to hold the worship event at home. For the same purpose, Chinese always pray for better luck, safety, health, love or money, when they visit the temple.

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Jade Emperor 玉皇

The Jade Emperor (Chinese: 玉皇; pinyin: Yù Huáng or 玉帝, Yù Dì) in Chinese culture, traditional religions and myth is one of the representations of the first god (太帝 tài dì). In Taoist theology he is Yuanshi Tianzun, one of the Three Pure Ones, the three primordial emanations of the Tao. He is also the Cao Đài ("Highest Power") of Caodaism.

The Jade Emperor is known by many names, including Heavenly Grandfather (天公, Tiān Gōng), which originally meant "Heavenly Duke", which is used by commoners; the Jade Lord the Highest Emperor, Great Emperor of Jade (玉皇上帝, Yu Huang Shangdi or 玉皇大帝, Yu Huang Dadi). In Korean religious traditions the same name is rendered as Okhwangsangje.

It was said that the Jade Emperor was originally the crown prince of the kingdom of Pure Felicity and Majestic Heavenly Lights and Ornaments. At birth, he emitted a wondrous light that filled the entire kingdom. When he was young, he was kind, intelligent and wise. He devoted his entire childhood to helping the needy (the poor and suffering, the deserted and single, the hungry and disabled). Furthermore, he showed respect and benevolence to both men and creatures. After his father died, he ascended the throne. He made sure that everyone in his kingdom found peace and contentment. After that, he told his ministers that he wished to cultivate Tao on the Bright and Fragrant Cliff. After 1,750 kalpas, each kalpa lasting for 129,600 years, he attained Golden Immortality. After another one hundred million years of cultivation, he finally became the Jade Emperor (using the given figures, this period before his becoming the Jade Emperor lasted for a total of about 226,800,000 years.)

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Social Media takes on Budget 2015

‘Silver Surfer', you say? Singaporeans react to Budget 2015 on social media

The more than two-hour long speech delivered by Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Monday attracted a wide array of social media reactions, ranging from the witty to the wacky.

The minister tabled the country’s budget for 2015 in Parliament during which he spoke about various revisions made to several areas such as petrol duties, personal income tax rates for top earners as well as CPF contribution rates. Tharman also announced the introduction of various schemes, such as the Skills Future scheme, which aims to support Singaporeans in their lifelong learning, and the Silver Support Scheme, which aims to support the bottom 20 per cent of Singaporeans aged 65 and above. You may also visit our live blog for more information on the speech.

So what do some Singaporeans think of this year’s budget? Well, it really depends on what parts stood out for them.

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Budget 2015 not quite as rosy as made out to be

The cynical among us would see Budget 2015 as an extension of a vote-buying scheme from Budget 2014. The focus of 2014 was on the elderly through the Pioneer Generation Package, and 2015 saw a distinctive shift towards the middle-income wage earners. Some attention was paid on the Silver Support Scheme and levelling CPF contributions, but a lot more attention went towards tweaking policies for innovation and productivity, education for both the working group and children, transport cost and taxes – issues that concern the working folks.

By the pecking order of election goodies, the People’s Action Party government seems to be working its way through every sector of society, dishing out benefits to make, eventually, everyone happy. Or is it? It is important to note that Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam began delivering the Budget on one pretext: That Singapore will maintain its stand of encouraging self-reliance among citizens and fiscal prudence in government spending. Budget 2015 had been generous in hand-outs, but the conditions for their delivery remain the same – there is no free lunch, and citizens are expected to chip in.

In that perspective, if Budget 2015 had been an electioneering attempt, it would have failed, because while the items have the material of an “inclusive society”, the entire Budget does not have it in spirit.

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While many of you were hoping that the Budget 2015 speech would be filled with SG50 style freebies, Mr Tharman instead announced that the CPF Salary Ceiling would be raised to $6,000, and that contribution rates would be going up. Just in case it’s not clear, that means even more of your salary will be going into your CPF. Yes, it might be exactly THE OPPOSITE of what most people were hoping for.

But before you burst into tears of anger and resentment – Let’s break down what it actually means for you as a CPF member and then we can all commiserate over milk and cookies if need be.

What is the CPF Salary Ceiling? First, let’s look at what the CPF Salary Ceiling actually is. This is the maximum amount of monthly salary that determines CPF contribution. Right now, an employee’s CPF contribution is 20% of their salary and the CPF Salary Ceiling is $5,000. That means if you earn $5,000 or less, your contribution is 20% of that. If you earn more than $5,000 your contribution is STILL 20% of $5,000, or $1,000.

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Ten fundamental flaws of 2015 pre-election goodies budget:-

  1. GST rebates for the low-income and more for senior citizens aged above 55
  2. The government will halve the maid’s worker levy from $120 to $60 for those families helping the elderly and young children for a year starting from May 1.
  3. One-year road tax rebate of 20% for cars, 60% for motorcycles and 100% for light commercial car vehicles to offset higher petrol duties
  4. For workers aged 50-55, the CPF contribution rate will go up by 2 percentage points in 2016; 55-60 up 1 point, and 60-65 up 0.5 point.
  5. Waiver of exam fees in government schools
  6. Personal income tax rebate of 50% up to $1000 for YA 2015
  7. Income ceiling for CPF contributions will be raised from $5000 to $6000 – additional interest on retirement and medisave account
  8. SkillsFuture Credit of $500 for skills upgrading
  9. Wage credit for companies
  10. More taxes for the super-rich


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Statement by local non-government organisation, AWARE on the Budget 2015

The Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) applauds the emphasis on redistributive policies in the breakthrough Budget speech delivered by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam today. The DPM’s statement included a welcome commitment to the government’s redistributive role * with increased assistance for low *income groups supported by taxation of the top 5% earners.

“We are heartened by this recognition of the principles of collective responsibility, fairness and our duties to support one another as fellow citizens,” said Dr Vivienne Wee, AWARE’s Research and Advocacy Director.

“The government has done well to increase social spending as a percentage of GDP, and to recognise the obligation of those who have benefited the most from the economy to give more back.”


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Budget 2015: A ‘heartless’ government?

1% extra on 1st $30,000 CPF from age 55 - According to the Budget 2015 speech – the CPF interest rate will be increased by one per cent on the first $30,000 for those aged 55 and above. This is $300 a year or a $40 increase in the monthly payout under CPF Life.

Robbed of billions and now give you peanuts? - So, after robbing us of an estimated $8 billion or more a year (difference between the actual returns on our CPF funds and the weighted average CPF interest rate) – we are now given an extra pittance of only $40 – which will only start from January 2016?

Silver Support of $100 to $250 - If you live in a HDB flat, have little family support and low CPF contributions in your working years – you can get $100 to $250 a month under the Silver Support Scheme. Since the criteria for ComCare financial assistance is similar but more stringent – does it mean that qualifying for Silver Support may preclude one from ComCare assistance which you may be receiving now?

Budget 2015: A ‘heartless’ government?
COE revenue collections to hit $5.1 billion this FY
Budget 2015 is a Joke Book
Middle-income group on budget: More can be done

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Budget 2015 in bites

DPM Tharman: 2014 Budget expects a deficit of $0.1bil, down from $1.2bil. Overall inflation expected to be close to zero in 2015. DPM warns of stagnating income as economy advances and income rises. Median household income in Singapore has increased by 38% in past decade.

Four key areas for Budget 2015: Invest in skills of the future (meritocracy of skills); restructure economy and support next generation of business successes (innovation and productivity); invest in economic and social infrastructure; strengthen assurance in retirement. Five growth clusters of the future: Advanced engineering (e.g. robotics; healthcare cluster; smart and sustainable urban solutions;  logistics and aerospace (entrenching our status as a hub); Asian finance and wealth management.

DPM Tharman: Achieving deep skills requires more than programmes and government support. We also need a culture of continual learning, investment by employers, employee empowerment, and fostering a collaborative culture. An inclusive society will be achieved by building stronger social safety net: Enhancing CPF, build Silver Support scheme, and encourage spirit of philanthropy and giving.

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Winners and losers in Budget 2015
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam delivered his speech on Budget 2015 on Monday, and there were few surprises.

As expected, he talked about the Silver Support scheme for the low-income elderly, the enhancements to the Central Provident Fund System, handouts in the form of GST vouchers, and more help for SMEs. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the higher personal income tax rate for top earners.

Here’s a round-up of the key announcements based on the “winners” and “losers”:

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Budget 2015: A high earner example

Read some of the most inane comments which came with this item. To me Anthony Fok is quite clever. Prospective tutees will conclude this fellow must be very good at what he is teaching. ST just provided him free and the most credible advertising. What is paying more tax?

He is in a very sweet spot. The money folks are most allergic to taxes because it is the big killer for the magic of compounding returns. On the other hand this guy gladly and understandbly pays his share. Unfortunately many high income earners would really look askance at the additional 2% extra tax. The MOF must have worked the numbers and types that would be hit rigorously to be confident about this measure. Obviously the really rich do not so much raise their income as increase their wealth.

You see the government is careful to tax income and not wealth. Tax the latter and overnight you will have an exodus of the very rich out of here.

related: Budget 2015: Comparative wages

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Singapore Budget 2015: CPF enhancements

Yesterday’s Jubilee Budget Statement, delivered by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, has included a number of significant changes to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) system.  In his address, the Minister set out new measures, building on the recent recommendations of the CPF Advisory Panel, aimed at giving people greater flexibility and security regarding their retirement savings and payouts.

The main changes include, raising the CPF salary ceiling to benefit the middle-income citizens, higher contribution rates for older workers and enhanced interest rates to aid those with lower balances.  In addition, the Silver Support Scheme will be strengthened to provide the lowest retiree income earners a “top up” each year as further support.

Neil Narale, Retirement Market Business Leader, ASEAN, Mercer, welcomes many of the proposed changes and feels the reforms will provide better support for different individuals with specific needs.  His thoughts on some of the key changes are set out below:

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The Budget – and my two cents worth

First, an announcement: Sin taxes have NOT been raised. I guess that’s a small reprieve for those who smoke and drink, especially those who are unhappy at not being able to drink in public places after-hours…There’s nothing on property either, so your home is safe.

Okay. That was just an attempt at light-heartedness.

So what is it about the Budget that will make anyone, including me, happy? I am UNhappy that my CPF contribution rate is going up, although the euphemism used is “normalised’’. Having enjoyed a little bit more take-home pay for a few months after turning 50, that little bit is going to go back into CPF. The plus point is that my employer also has to pay its 1 per cent portion. Yes, yes, I know all the big picture arguments about retirement adequacy…Still I was hoping that only the employer contribution rate went up, not mine!

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Budget 2015 provides safety net for those who need it most
AFP News/Theresa Barraclough - Singapore's marginal personal income tax rate for those earning above Sg$320,000 ($256,000) a year will rise to 22 percent next year from the current 20 percent, in order to fund rising social spending targeted at the poor and elderly

2015’s Budget has shown a willingness – albeit not a whole-hearted plunge – to move towards more redistributive policies. High income earners will have to pay more income tax, but low- and middle-income families will be receiving more support in the form of concessionary levies for foreign domestic workers, childcare subsidies, and the Silver Support Scheme that will help provide for low income earners who may not have substantial amounts of CPF monies for their retirement.

The significance of the Silver Support Scheme has not gone unnoticed. Shortly after Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam gave his Budget speech, AWARE released a press statement welcoming “the DPM’s explicit recognition of the position of homemakers and the insufficiency of CPF in providing for their needs. Silver Support will also assist those who participate in the economy without formal employment, such as freelancers and contract workers.”

This stands out for me, not because I’m a freelancer who might one day have to depend on the 2065 version of such a scheme, but because it is an acknowledgement that self-reliance is not always the answer, and that the state has a responsibility to provide a social safety net for those who have trouble being self-reliant.

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The New Standards For Poor

A day after the Budget was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, S&P issued a top AAA unsolicited rating on Singapore. S&P noted that investments in the $68.2 billion budget - including efforts to boost innovation, skills training, as well as funding to meet the needs of Singapore's ageing population - "significantly outsized" the $705 million transferred to households. Investments such as the $26 billion for trains that keep breaking down, while $9.3 billion is allocated for hospital grants and construction, and suspect "Medishield Life subsidies".

What is also impossible to miss is that the $10.5 billion to be harvested from Goods and Services Tax (GST) is second only to the $13.5 billion contribution from corporate income taxes. Even the poorest of the poor, who are spared the $8.9 billion to be collected from personal income taxes, will have to pay 7 percent extra for the bread and water to survive on. Lest we forget, our water bill is doubly taxed, the GST is applied on top of the 30 percent "Water Conservation Tax".

As long as there is sheep to be fleeced from, Singapore is in no danger of going broke.

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The Singapore Daily
TOC: Budget 2015 not quite as rosy as made out to be
The Independent, SG: Singapore Budget 2015: CPF enhancements
TR Emeritus: Budget 2015: The Colour of Money
Money $mart: What is Raising the CPF Salary Ceiling Going to “Cost” You?
Bumble Bee Mum: Even SAHMs have things to cheer (and boo) about!
Zhun Bo, Singapore?!: Sandwiches of Singapore, rejoice!
Blogging for Myself: Budget 2015: A high earner example
Just Speaking My Mind: Singapore Budget 2015
Thoughts of a Cynical Investor: Budget: Ask in a very loud voice:
Singapore Notes: The New Standards For Poor
Today Voices: In support of tighter Town Councils Act

TR Emeritus: Budget 2015
mUmBRELLA: Jubilee budget welcome news for Sg marketing industry ‘produces
Bertha Harian: The Budget and my two cents worth
Kirsten Han: Budget 2015 provides safety net for those who need it most
Top of  Word: Little Evidence the Sg Budget can Help Address Future Challenges
Inve$tment Moat$: Income Ceiling Bump from 5k to 6k might put $94,000 at age 65
Blogging for Myself: Budget 2015: Upping income taxes
Epsilon Luxe: Welcoming the Budget 2015!!!
A Singaporean In Australia: Meritocracy of Skills
Zhun Bo, Singapore?!: The SG Budget 2015: Taking from rich; giving to poor
My Singapore News: A handout budget but something missing
Sg Beacon: `My-grandfather-grandmother-will-be-happy’: All The Good Stuff
Transitioning: Ten Fundamental Flaws of 2015 Pre-election Goodies Budget
Singapore Notes: How They Move Up And Do Well
Mothership: 6 Things in S’pore that Budget 2015 can help to fix
New Nation: No Budget goodies in 2015 Sg buying votes, elections only in 2016

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#Sg Budget 2016
Social Media takes on Budget 2015
#SG Budget 2015
A Rainbow Budget 2014
Response To Budget 2013
Parliament Debates Budget 2013
Our SG Budget 2013


Yan Yat or Ren Ri 人日 - Everybody’s Birthday

Lo Hei 撈起 The Toss For Prosperity

The seventh day is Ren Ri or Yan-Yat (meaning "Birthday of Man", "Day of Man", "Day of Humanity" or "Everyman's Birthday"). In early times, the urban Chinese based their forecast of the country's condition for the year on this day's weather.

Customs in celebrating the day vary from place to place. The people from the Fukien province are fond of preparing a special soup with seven health-promoting ingredients to counteract ill health, while those in Chekiang eat Peace Dumplings to bring peace to the country.

In Singapore and Malaysia, yu sheng or "raw fish" is served.

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The 7th Day of Chinese New Year Festival - The Human Day

According to Chinese genesis, the goddess with snake body (2852-2738 B.C.) created chickens on the first day of the first lunar month, dogs on the 2nd day, sheep on the 3rd day, pigs on the 4th day, cows on the 5th day, horses on the 6th and humans on the 7th day.

The goddess made many human using mud mixed by yellow soil and water. Also she taught human about the marriage; so human can reproduce themselves. Therefore, the 7th lunar day of the year becomes the human's birthday.

Almost no Chinese celebrate on this day. Some people just eat pettitoes with angel hair noodle. The long noodle stands for longevity. Once, Chinese ate seven vegetables (celery, shepherd's purse spinach, green onion, garlic, mugwort and  colewort) on the human day, which can repel the evil spirits and sickness away.

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Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year,as we know it, is a very popular festival that almost all Chinese celebrate at the start of a new year. It lasts for 15 days with people going around to visit their relatives and other family members. Chinese New Year is the grandest Chinese Festival among all the different festivals. Like I have stated in my previous sentence - almost all Chinese around the world celebrate it, be it Chinese from Singapore (like me!), Chinese from Taiwan or even Chinese in America.

To young children nowadays, what comes to mind when its Chinese New Year? Of course, Hongbaos and good food such as Shark fins Soup. However, Chinese New Year is not all about Hongbaos and good food. Instead, it should be about keeping the traditions of our ancestors and bonding with our family members during Reunion Dinner .etc. Hence, read on further to understand more about the different interesting facts about Chinese New Year and the process of celebrating it.

There are many things to do during Chinese New Year. Hence, everyone is always busy during Chinese New Year. The below describes what happens BEFORE the start of Chinese New Year:

One month before Chinese New Year, it is said that on the 24th day of the 12th month of the Chinese lunar calendar(Xiao Guo Nian/Little New Year), the household dieties such as the Zao Jun, or Kitchen God, will report to the Jade Emperor up in the Heavens on the performance of the family that he is looking over. This family will offer special things like good food to the Kitchen God so that when he reports to the Jade Emperor, he will speak well of them. After this, spring cleaning starts.

Now is the time for Spring Cleaning, where by the Chinese will sweep away any bad luck accumulated over the past year. PS: No cleaning during New Years day itself because that will sweep away all the GOOD LUCK

People will start to stock up on good food by buying Chinese delicacies to cook during the reunion dinner. Such delicacies are shark fins soup. Some people would also buy biscuits and snacks such as pineapple tarts. They may also bake snacks such as love letters.

Families start decorating their houses and hang up lights around their houses and some fake firecrackers from the ceilings (my family does that, does yours?). There are many different things u can hang up such as red and gold decorations that have messages of prosperity, fortune ans happiness written on them. All these are important as they will bring in luck to the house.

Some families may also hang up decorations related to the animal according to the Chinese Zodiac in order to honor it. This year is 2012 and hence most of the decorations in my house during Chnese New Year have dragons on them.

On New Year's Eve, there will be a family gathering, or reunion.

During this family reunion dinner, there are many different dishes being served. Each of these foods symbolizes different aspects:

Abalone: Good Fortune
Apricot, dried: Gold, Wealth
Bean Sprouts: Positive start into the new year
Black Moss: Wealth because when it is pronounced in cantonese, it is Fat Choy, which sounds like Wealth
Cabbage: 100 types of prosperity and luck
Scallop: Opening of new horizons
Carrots: Orange/Red Colour - Good Luck
Chicken (whole): Prosperity and togetherness as a family and joy. PS: Chicken with the feet head and tail symbolizes completeness
Chinese Garlic Chives: Long Life
Duck: Fertility
Noodles, Uncut: long life
Egg: Fertility
Egg Roll: Money and wealth

Fish (whole):The word fish pronounced in Chinese is Yu, which also sounds like leftover, in chinese. Hence, the fish represents an abundance and leftover of wealth for the coming year. Hence, this is why the fish is served along with the head and tail intact.

Jiaozi - Dumplings: wealth - the shape of the dumpling is that of a gold ingot. The pronounciation of the word, Jiaozi, sounds like the same pronounciation of a small coin used back in the olden days.

Lotus seeds: Many male offspring

Meatball: Reunion

Mandarin Orange: Gold, Wealth

Maize: Growth

Onion: Cleverness

Oyster: Good business and good fortune

Pork: Strength, Wealth and abundant blessing

Sweets: Brings a sweet life in the new year

Prawn: Liveliness

Rice: Fertility, Wealth, Luck, and it also symbolizes a link between the Heavens and the Earth.

Nian Gao (Sticky Rice cake): Chinese New Year's Cake. It symbolizes increasing prosperity every year, Hence, good luck will be showered on those who eat this cake during Chinese New Year. Sticky rice also symbolizes the togetherness of a family.

Seaweed: Good luck and prosperity - just like Fat Choy, black moss.

Pomelo: Many offspring

Black Mushrom: Longevity, sizing opportunities

Tangyuan: Sweet dumplings

Green vegetables: close family ties

After the reunoin dinner, every light is kept on until midnight and children are encouraged to stay awake until then or beyond so as to send off the old year and welcome the new year. It is said that the longer the child stays awake, the longer his/her life will be.

What happens during Chinese New Year:

Day 1 On New Years Day, the next morning after Reunion Dinner on New Year's Eve, the children in the family receive Hongbaos. As I have said, all children love these and they are usually given by their parents or grandparents. However, it is rude to open them in front of their parents. Hence, they should wait until they are going to sleep or the next day.

Day 1 In addition, Cleaning is not allowed on New Years Day itself because if a family sweeps during New Years Day, they will be sweeping away the good luck bestowed upon them. Hence, most Chinese families try to hide away brooms and cleaning equipment.

Day 1 Chinese also wear new and red clothes on Chinese New Year and light firecrackers (though that's not allowed in S'Pore) to celebrate the victory over the Nian in the past (for more info on the Nian, go to Chinese New Year Myths). To the Chinese, Red also represents life, energy and wealth. (We will be touching more on colours and their meanings later on :D) Hence, most decorations and clothing is usually in red.

Day 1 & 2 The first to the second days are spent visiting elders and paying one's respects to them. Married women also travel back to their maiden home to visit their parents. Many families also open their doors wide so as to welcome relatives or friends that are visiting.

Days 6 to 10 The following days (6-10) would be spent going around to relatives houses to meet up and there would be greetings with oranges being given to each other as signs of good luck and so on.

Days 11 to 14 The following days are once again spent inviting friends and relatives over for dinner and going over to their houses to have dinner too.

Day 14 Preparations for the Lantern Festival (15th Day) is done and everyone waits in anticiapation for the long-waited lantern festival

Day 15 The Lantern Festival, also known as Yuan Xiao, is held on the 15th Day of Chinese New Year. There are many customs and traditions when celebrating this festival. When the Chinese make lanterns, they have to hang it outside each house in order to let the dead find their way and keep off evil spirits. The Chinese will also eat Tang Yuan, which is supposed to unite the family and act as a family reunion. Crossing the bridge helps to prevent illnesses for the coming year. Last but not least, watching fancy lanterns and immersing in the atmosphere. This is the part that I enjoy most as I get to hold a lantern and illuminhate those dark places around the estate, while playing with my friends and neighbours. These are some of the traditional ways of celebrating Lantern Festival.

Short introduction of the Lantern Festival - Back in the Han Dynasty, Emperor Wudi had a minister named Dongfang Shuo. One day, he was picking plum branches in the royal garden when he saw a palace maid by the name of Yuan Xiao, who was about to jump right into a well and commit suicide because she was extremely homesick. Dongfang Shuo sympathised with this poor palace maid and devised a strategy to allow her to meet her family members.

He asked Yuan Xiao to dress in red and send her to the streets, pretending to be a messenger sent by the God Of Fire. She told everyone that she was sent to burn down the city and that even the Jade Emperor would be watching her when she did so. Hence, everyone was extremely scared. Yuan Xiao then told everyone that if they wanted to avoid this deadly fire, she would have to deliver a message to the emperor ona piece of red paper. The message stated: Chang'an is in peril. The imperial palace will be on fire. The fire will last sixteen days and its flames will make the night red. Emperor Wudi was shocked and he asked minister Dongfang Shuo for help.

The wise minister said that the god of fire liked to eat tang yuan balls and he knew that Yuan Xiao made the best Tang Yuan. Dongfang Shuo suggested that on the fifteen night of the first lunar month (Chinese New Year's 15th Day, Lantern Festival), all families and Yuan Xiao should make Tang Yuan balls for the God of Fire in order to appease him and a change of heart. Then, on the following night, every single family should make lanterns and light them and hand them outside every single household in vast numbers. They would also light firecrackers and this huge fake-fire would fool the Jade Emperor who was standing at the Southern Heavenly Gate and watching the fake blaze, might be fooled. Then, when the entire city was lit up with firecrackers and lanterns, everyone went out and admired these amazing lanterns. Yuan Xiao held up a lantern bearing her name and went around looking for her family and soon, she was reunited with her family after her sister saw the lantern. This is how Tang Yuan and the Lantern Festival came about.

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Lo Hei 撈起 The Toss For Prosperity

When putting the yusheng on the table offers New Year greetings.

恭喜发财 (Gong Xi Fa Cai) meaning “Congratulations for your wealth” 万事如意 (Wan Shi Ru Yi) meaning “May all your wishes be fulfilled”

The raw fish is added, symbolising abundance and excess through the year. 年年有余 (Nian Nian You Yu) meaning “Abundance through the year”, as the word "fish" in Mandarin also sounds like "Abundance".

The pomelo or lime is added to the fish, adding luck and auspicious value. 大吉大利 Da Ji Da Li meaning “Good luck and smooth sailing”

Pepper is then dashed over in the hope of attracting more money and valuables. 招财进宝 Zhao Cai Jin Bao meaning “Attract wealth and treasures”

Then oil is poured out, circling the ingredients and encouraging money to flow in from all directions. 一本万利 Yi Ben Wan Li meaning “Make 10,000 times of profit with your capital” 财源广进 Cai Yuan Guang Jin meaning “Numerous sources of wealth”

Carrots are added indicating blessings of good luck. 鸿运当头 Hong Yun Dang Tou meaning “Good luck is approaching”. Carrot (红萝卜) is used as the first character 鸿 also sound like the Chinese character for red.

Then the shredded green radish is placed symbolising eternal youth. 青春常驻 Qing Chun Chang Zhu meaning “Forever young”. Green radish is used as the first character 青 also sound like the Chinese character for green.

After which the shredded white radish is added - prosperity in business and promotion at work. 风生水起 Feng Sheng Shui Qi meaning “Progress at a fast pace” 步步高升 Bu Bu Gao Sheng meaning “Reaching higher level with each step”

The condiments are finally added.

First, peanut crumbs are dusted on the dish, symbolizing a household filled with gold and silver. 金银满屋 Jin Yin Man Wu meaning “Household filled with gold and silver”

Sesame seeds quickly follow symbolising a flourishing business. 生意兴隆 Sheng Yi Xing Long meaning “Prosperity for the business”

Deep-fried flour crisps in the shape of golden pillows is then added with wishes that literally the whole floor would be filled with gold. 满地黄金 Man Di Huang Jin meaning “Floor full of gold”

All toss the salad an auspicious 7 times with loud shouts of lo hei and other auspicious New Year wishes. Words: Lo hei which is Cantonese for “tossing luck”.

The ingredients mixed by pushing them toward the centre, an encouragement to push on the good luck of all at the table.