It is a popular custom to visit temples after the reunion dinner on the Chinese New Year eve. It is at these sites that the spirit of Chinese New Year can be experienced and as a place to understand the hopes, aspirations and dreams of devotees for the New Year.
Chinatownology visits 5 temples to share these special moments.
11.30 pm, 25 Jan 2009
Chinese New Year eve at Thian Hock Keng temple
Thian Hock Keng is a Hokkien temple and over the last few years, their Chinese New Year eve events have been getting more and more popular attracting local, expatriate and tourist crowds.
Just before midnight, there was a chanting session led by a group of Buddhist Venerables. At the stroke of midnight, the God of Wealth appeared with lion and dragon dance followed by a Cai Qing by the lions.
A Buddhist prayer, God of Wealth, Lion and Dragons to welcome the Year of the Ox
12.45 am 26, Jan 2009
First day of the Chinese New Year at Wai Hai Cheng Bo Temple
Wak Hai Cheng Bo is a Teochew temple. Although it was after midnight, the temple was still crowded with devotees queuing to offer their prayers. Many of them were young devotees and young families.
Judging from the incense still burning in the courtyard, a substantial crowd must have gathered before midnight to welcome the new year.
1.10 am 26 Jan 2009,
First day of the Chinese New Year at Fook Tet Soo Hakka Temple
Fook Tet Soo is a Hakka temple and as usual, they organized a New Year eve prayer session. Although we arrived an hour passed the midnight, devotees were still praying and some of them have gathered outside the temple chatting away.
1.40 am 26 Jan 2009
First day of the Chinese New Year at Sri Krishnan, Indian Temple
Although this is an Indian Temple, it has attracted many Chinese devotees. Many of them prayed at the Guan yin temple a few doors away and moved over to pray at the Indian temple as well.
The management clearly welcomed Chinese devotees and even had a banner made to wish everyone a Happy Chinese New Year. The Chinese devotees light incense outside the temple and if they enter the temple, they observe the custom inside an Indian temple.
This is one of the sites in Singapore to observe inter racial and inter religious relationships and interactions in Singapore. It is an excellent example of mutual respect in a multi-religious society.
2.04 am 26 Jan 2009
First day of the Chinese New Year at Waterloo Street Guan Yin Temple
This is a very popular monastery and attracts devotees and visitors from all over the world. On any day, you can see Chinese, Caucasian and even Black devotees praying there.
On the night of Chinese New Year eve, many devotees visit the temple hours before the New Year to wait for the opportunity to offer the first prayer. These devotees formed a very long queue to wait for their turn to offer prayers. At about 2 am, there was still a very long queue and very crowded.
These crowds brought much business to the nearby Chinese New Year market organized by local authorities. In fact, the area around the Guan Yin Temple has been so popular and lively that it has been suggested as the “New or Real” Chinatown of Singapore!
These traditional temple celebrations played a role in cultural transmission and even highlight the identity of Singapore.
The celebrations at each dialect group temple are an opportunity for cultural transmission through participation. By participating in the prayers especially together with family members, it heightens the sense of individual’s relationship with family and community.
As the trend of visiting multiple temples including Hindu Temples becomes more popular, it offers visitors a chance to appreciate the culture of different dialects groups in Singapore and also the ways in which different ethnic groups can share the same social space, participate in each other’s festivals and more importantly in ways that respect each other’s beliefs and customs.