Friday, February 08, 2008

A Quiet Celebration

It was eerily silent yesterday, the first day of the Year of the Rat. As I made my way to my mother's house in Woodlands at about 11.30am - my first stop - all was quiet on the roads and the neighbourhood. Sure there were a family or two of fellow Chinese dressed to their nines on the same 'mission' - visiting relatives, but I thought, this is the Lunar New Year, it shouldn't be that quiet. Maybe all the cars have gone up North to Malaysia for these holidays that extend into the weekend. Maybe I was out too late in the day. People drop by their father's/mother's place around 9/10 in the morning. I am a relative slacker when it comes to occasions like these. However, it turned out that I wasn't the last among my siblings...

Noise goes hand in hand with the Lunar New Year, at least it once used to. Mercifully noisy Lion Dancers still prowl the streets and the apartments. Before the firecracker ban, in the 1950s and 60s the New Year was filled with noise from firecrackers going off every other minute. Since then, two generations of Singaporeans have grown up never experiencing this. Its a great pity. Then, I used to buy a whole packet of small firecrackers (not the big red and mean-looking types that only adults used), unbound each string of firecrackers into individual ones to 'fire off' with a smoldering joss stick. It was great good fun, until some people somewhere in Singapore set off a couple of big fires through their irresponsible 'fire cracking' that the government decided to ban them. Ironically, as I think back, we were the original 'terrorists' packing miniature dynamites. Then, even children could buy these miniature 'bombs' from the neighbourhood store.

I had hoped that perhaps one day, the firecracker ban would be lifted, just as motor racing was once banned but is now become a central plank in Singapore's economy. (I was reminded of the old Grand Prix on news of the death last week of two Polytechnic students along the stretch of Old Upper Thomson Road - the original Grand Prix tracks then) Truly, nothing talks better than money or kills faster than recklessness+youth. This would really bring back the noise and colour of the Lunar New Year. But with security a big issue in Singapore, I doubt that even money could buy any lifting of the ban on firecrackers. Getting the ban lifted on the selling of chewing gum would probably be easier.

May I wish a Happy and Prosperous, albeit noiseless, Lunar New Year to all Chinese readers of this blog.

p.s. Cars were out in full force late in the afternoon on the expressways as I was making my way home. Singaporeans just can't live without their cars.

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