Celebrating Chinese New Year in Singapore

Chinese New Year is a memorable experience wherever you can witness it, but in Singapore the holiday has its own special charm and traditions. Also known as the Spring Festival, this time of the year is celebrated by all Singaporeans regardless of their background. The Chinese New Year is celebrated in January and February. 2011’s celebration of the Year of the Rabbit began on January 15 and ended February 12. Singapore’s Chinatown is of course the center of these vibrant celebrations and is beautifully and colorfully decorated. Eu Tong Sen Street and New Bridge Road are the epicenter of the festivities, but residents can be found celebrating all over the island.

Street markets are packed and street performers entertain crowds well into the early morning hours. Dragon dances, lion dances and their drum beats echo in visitors’ heads for months to come. The Chinatown Street Light Up is quite a spectacle – dance troupes waving their giant fans and decorated umbrellas, as well as lion dancers, acrobats and fire eaters, perform in Kreta Ayer Square for huge crowds. A lot of celebrities can be seen at the annual Light Up. Many events are held at the River Hongbao. There are street performances, game stalls and fireworks on the Marina Bay Floating Platform and the Esplanade’s Waterfront Promenade. Many aspects of Chinese performance art can be witnessed, like martial arts demonstrations, calligraphy competitions and Chinese opera. You can have your name written in Chinese calligraphy or get a traditional zodiac reading according to your birthday.

Chinese New Year is an important time for families and relatives to come together. The most special occasion for this is the Reunion Dinner, when families meet for dinner on the eve of Chinese New Year. Young children are given “kong bao”, small red packets filled with money, as gifts for the new year and many people inaugurate the new year by wearing newly purchased clothes and cleaning out their houses. Chinese New Year can be a fun time to shop in Singapore too. There are immense street bazaars with more than 500 stalls selling everything from handcrafts, traditional holiday decorations, flowers and all kinds of Chinese and Singaporean snacks. You’ll be likely to see some tempting fish dishes, as the Chinese word for “fish” also means “abundance” and is often a symbol in new year celebrations.

Singapore’s biggest dance party is an integral part of young people’s celebration of Chinese New Year. The Pit Building track becomes a gigantic outdoor dance floor with space for up to 8,000 partygoers. Chingay Parade marks the last two days of celebrating. The Hokkien word “Chingay” translates to “costume and masquerade.” The parade takes place right next to Manila Bay and many of the participants are in elaborate float processions. The celebration is culminated by a countdown and fireworks display above Chinatown’s People’s Park Complex. Flaming confetti is thrown down afterwards. For two full days after the midnight celebrations, the government declares public holidays and nearly everything in Chinatown is closed.

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