Jan 12 2012
It feels like I’ve barely had time to put away the champagne glasses but it’s New Year’s in Singapore once again. Chinese New Year, also known as the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, officially begins on January 23, 2012, and is celebrated for 15 days. This is the biggest event of the year in Singapore and the city is already decked out in its finest red decorations to welcome The Year of the Dragon.
The first two days of Chinese New Year – January 23 and 24 – are public holidays for everyone, but this festival is mostly celebrated by ethnically Chinese Singaporeans. Much like Christmas, the weeks leading up to Chinese New Year are frantic with shopping and preparation while the holiday itself is spent at home with family. This is the one time of year when even the most modern Singaporeans follow Chinese cultural traditions like exchanging ang pow (red packets of money), attending a family reunion dinner, and visiting a Chinese temple to make offerings to their ancestors.
To experience Chinese New Year in Singapore for yourself the place to go is, of course, Chinatown. The neighbourhood is already bustling with street markets selling dragon decorations, cheong sam dresses, and festive treats like pineapple tarts and bak kwa (it tastes like candied bacon). The annual Chinatown New Year Light-Up is in effect until February 21, 2012, with elaborate decorations, dragon dances through the streets, and free performances of traditional Chinese music and dance at Kreta Ayer Square.
Of course, Chinatown isn’t the only place to embrace the Year of the Dragon. Marina Bay will be aglow with enormous Chinese lanterns during the River Hongbao Festival. This free event kicks off with fireworks on January 22 and runs every night until January 29 with cultural performances, handicrafts, and delicious food. The Esplanade Theatre presents the Huayi Chinese Festival of Arts from January 27 to February 5 with traditional theatre, music, dance, poetry, and art exhibits. The public celebrations culminate with the annual Chingay Street Parade on February 3 and 4. Tickets start from S$25, but you can catch a glimpse of the elaborate floats from the street.
Chinese New Year is also the only Singapore holiday with the potential to affect your travel plans. While it’s business as usual at the malls, many small businesses shut down for several days. This may mean that the famous Hainanese chicken rice stall you read about may be closed, but you can still eat your fill of Malaysian and Indian hawker food. Also, since Chinese New Year is the only multi-day public holiday, many Singaporeans seize the opportunity to travel within the region. If you’re hoping to score a cheap flight from Changi Airport to Bali at the end of January – good luck!
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