WEEK 05 - Lunar New Year Rituals

Week 5 and one month of this year is done. Another month has flown by, and we land in February once again. This week, I'm wondering what your festival rituals are.

Week 5 and one month of this year is done. 

Another month has flown by, and we land in February once again. Speaking about February, doesn’t this year’s calendar presentation of February give such satisfaction? (Type A senses appeased)

When it comes to the second month of the year, I believe a few things come to mind - Valentine’s Day, the real year begins, and the Lunar New Year. 

At least, that’s the case in Singapore, where Lunar New Year songs and merchandise can actually come out on display on Boxing Day (26 Dec) itself. And with Lunar New Year, there have been a few rituals built up over the years that still speak to me, and perhaps to all of you too.

This is one that continues until this day. 

Kueh Baulu

“Not nice, I help you eat.” 

That’s what some of my friends say about the chocolate chip cookies my mother makes during the Lunar New Year. The same thing can be said of this annual snack cake the family makes during the same festive season. 

Kueh Baulu (Bolu / Bahulu / and many other iterations) literally translates to “ball cake” in Malay. A staple kueh in Peranakan culture, Kueh Baulu is a bite-sized cake of dry flour, eggs, and sugar, cooked in a coconut-oil-seasoned cast iron mold, over (and topped) with hot coals. You can get these cakes in markets during various festive seasons in Southeast Asia, and they’re usually soft, bite-sized cakes that remind your taste buds of honey and sweet coconut.

I’m not Peranakan, but this ritual of us making this kueh for the Lunar New Year has been around since I could remember. With the mixer running for the whole afternoon, my mother, grandmother, and the rest of us (in scattered shifts) get stationed outside our ground floor flat, watching the cakes cook over a charcoal stove. (And snacking on them as and when) And as we grew older, with our own lives, this session became something that only resurfaces during this time of the year. 

Looking at major festivals in Singapore, many of them centre around food and family. We make jokes about how each year becomes this unspoken competition about how each family is doing, which makes such sessions over the charcoal fire more juxtaposed. In the hustle of trying to present the “best festival celebration” ever, it’s sobering to acknowledge that in the end, it’s rituals like these that anchor us to these celebrations. These rituals that stay in our minds and bring authentic smiles.

So I guess you can say that the warmth we often seek during festivals aren’t from the dates themselves, but from the memories we make and the rituals we choose to keep for ourselves. 

What are your festive rituals? Or just aspects of various festivals you look forward to? Let me know in the comments!

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That’s it from me. Take care and see you all next week!