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Essay

How to move house

By Tan Ying Zhen

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What do these three items — a calendar, a pineapple and a kettle of boiling water — have in common?

All of them are necessary for certain "good luck" rituals when moving house in Singapore.

I moved house recently and many friends and relatives dispensed advice to me on what rituals should be done to make the move smooth sailing. Many Chinese Singaporeans believe that these rituals will bring good luck and help to ensure that all is well in the new home.

First, choose an auspicious date for the move using the lunar calendar. Just as the Japanese calendar categorizes days into six types (rokuyo), the Chinese calendar accords a meaning to each day. Some days are considered auspicious for weddings or moving house, while others are considered unlucky days.

My husband and I have never been superstitious, so we simply chose a date that was convenient for both of us. My friends were horrified and they offered to help me check. Fortunately, the date that we had in mind was considered acceptable.

The second thing was to prepare a pineapple and roll it through the front door upon reaching our new place. Why a pineapple? In Hokkien, a pineapple is called "ong lai" and it sounds similar to "good luck is coming." As for what to do with the pineapple after it had been rolled in, some friends suggested displaying it prominently for a while. Others were more pragmatic. Just slice it and enjoy it, they said.

The third thing was to boil a kettle of water in the new home. My friend explained this seemingly bizarre practice with the Chinese idiom " " (pronounced "feng sheng shui qi"), which means to do well and prosper. The act of boiling water corresponded to the last two characters. Hopefully this would then usher in prosperous days ahead.

Since my husband and I aren't superstitious, we did what we'd intended in the first place: nothing special at all. Besides, we were preoccupied with packing and unpacking, and pineapples couldn't be further from our minds. With so many things to transport to our new home, we would much rather expend our efforts on moving essential items, rather than looking for a pineapple.

We did boil water, though. After getting our stuff into the new apartment and doing a simple clean-up, we finally sat down to rest. As I boiled some water for tea, I remembered what my friend had said about welcoming prosperous days ahead.

I guess it's impossible to verify whether superstitions are silly beliefs or real. But the important thing is, we both felt contented, at ease and completely at home.

シンガポールの引越し事情

中国系シンガポール人の多くは、引越しのときに新居での生活がうまくいくことを願って縁起担ぎの儀式をする。筆者が最近引っ越したときも、家族や友人から何をすべきかアドバイスがあった。

The Japan Times ST: September 15, 2017

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート

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2017年9月29日号    試読・購読   デジタル版
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