Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan celebrates CNY with series of free events at Telok Ayer temple

SINGAPORE - Chinese New Year is usually celebrated with food, family reunions and red packets. But behind all that good cheer is a rich history that the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan  wants to spread this festive season.

Over 18 days from the eve of Chinese New Year on Thursday (Feb 15), the association is organising a series of free events on Hokkien traditions at the Thian Hock Keng temple at Telok Ayer Street.

There will, for instance, be traditional Hokkien string puppet shows, and a bilingual exhibition on the forgotten traditions of Chinese New Year such as the sipping of red date tea .

"The drinking of red date tea is a unique Hokkien custom, which symbolises a sweet start to the year," said Ms Sim Bee Hia, secretary-general of the Singapore Hokkien Association.

Hokkien string puppet shows, for example, are usually put up during Chinese New Year and on the birthday of Mazu, Taoist goddess of the sea, in April or the 23rd day of the third lunar month as a homage to the deity, she added.

During Thursday's event, which will start from 10pm, red date tea will be served to visitors, along with snacks on a Tray Of Togetherness, Ms Sim said.

Over the 18-day period until March 4, the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan will also be organising free guided tours of the temple, an architectural work dating back to the 1800s.

These will be held on Thursday, Feb 23, 24 and March 2 or on the eve, 8th, 9th and 15th day of Chinese New Year respectively. Those keen on joining the guided tours should pre-register via e-mail atadmin@shhk.com.sg or call the association on 6222 8212. Walk-ins are also accepted.

All are welcome, including non-Chinese Singaporeans, people of all faiths, new citizens, and the foreign community in Singapore, and their families, said Ms Sim.

She added: "The aim of celebrating Chinese New Year this way is to preserve Chinese customs, traditions, culture and heritage, and to raise and promote understanding and awareness of the importance of inter-racial harmony and inter-religion tolerance in our society."