Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival, is one of the most eagerly anticipated occasions each year. This is the biggest and most significant event of the Chinese community, and it is observed by Singaporeans from all walks of life.
The festival traditionally begins on the first day of the first month in the Chinese calendar and ends on the 15th day.
Symbolically, new clothes are usually worn to signify the new year. It is also the tradition for every family to thoroughly clean their homes to “sweep away” any ill-fortune, making way for the arrival of good luck. Chinese New Year also brings people together, and is marked by visits to kin, relatives and friends, a practice known simply as "new-year visits". The highlight for children and younger members of the family during these visits comes in little red packets, or “hong bao”, filled with money. Another significant tradition is the Reunion Dinner, which takes place on the Eve of Chinese New Year, and is an occasion for families to come together and eat.
During this time, the streets of the city come alive with the sounds of traditional music, the sights of hanging red lanterns and the tantalising smells wafting from the many night stalls set-up in various neighbourhoods throughout Singapore.
One such precinct is Chinatown, which, with its stunning street light-ups, night markets and decorations, is the focal point for Chinese New Year celebrations in Singapore. The best time to absorb the lively atmosphere that Chinatown has to offer is during the Chinatown Street Light Up. This is when lion dancers, fire eaters and female dance troupes grace Kreta Ayer Square with their mesmerising performances. Armed with giant paper fans and intricately patterned umbrellas, they will provide you with street entertainment that you are unlikely to forget.
Folklore is very much at the heart of this festival. All across the city, you’ll notice dragon and lion dances everywhere – lending a cheery, festive atmosphere to the occasion. Dragons and lions are prominent characters in Chinese mythology; its roots originating in ancient China when Nien, a mythical beast which tormented villagers was discovered to be afraid of the colour red.
Singapore bursts with all sorts of activities and events during Chinese New Year each year. The centrepiece of the festivities is the Chingay Parade, a grand carnival-like street parade with dazzling floats, thrilling spectacles like fire-eaters, magicians and sizzling dance acts. However, to accommodate more spectators, it is held on the expansive grounds of the Formula One Pit Building alongside the Marina waterfront.
Another popular annual Chinese New Year event is the River Hongbao. Held on the Marina Bay Floating Platform and the Esplanade Waterfront Promenade in mid-February, the vicinity comes alive with the throbbing beat of lively street performances, shopping and games stalls, lanterns and fireworks – a crowd favourite during Chinese New Year.
Nearby at the Esplanade, the annual Huayi Festival, which also happens in February, showcases traditional and contemporary Chinese arts in a variety of genres like theatre, opera and music, and includes visual installations by renowned Chinese artists from all over the world.
Come soak in the atmosphere in Singapore during Chinese New Year and be entertained by the many activities that happen around it. You’ll leave understanding Chinese culture and its traditions better, as well as with more luck and prosperity for the rest of the year.