Chinese New Year celebration in Singapore

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Chinese New Year celebration in Singapore is an astonishing event and it is vastly celebrated in Singapore. The whole city stops and takes part in the festivities. It is such a joy to be part of this. This year’s celebration was muted due to the covid pandemic, but I found some older footage I would like to show you how wonderful a time you can have in this small city-state during that time.

HISTORY

Maybe I can start with some historical remarks. Chinese New Year is a very old tradition. It has been celebrated for more than one thousand years. We don’t when exactly it started, but most probably in China’s bronze age by Emperor Yao (2333–2234 B.C.) (Source). The festivities grew out of ancient celebrations of the end of the winter and the beginning of the spring. That’s why we called it a Spring Festival as well.

The date of the celebration is different every year. The date is determined by the Chinese lunar calendar where each month begins with a new moon and has either twenty-nine or thirty days. That is why the Chinese New Year is also called Lunar New Year.

Tunnel of red lanterns as a Chinese New Year decoration at Sentosa, Singapore, 2017

GETTING READY for Chinese New Year Celebration in Singapore

SHOPPING

The celebrations on New Year’s Eve begin with a family reunion dinner and it lasts a few days in Singapore. In China it is much longer – they celebrate 15 days. If it is in Chine or Singapore, you can imagine that the preparations for such festivities need to start much earlier. The China Town before Spring Festival is buzzing with excitement. People are buying pineapple tarts and other sweets. decorations, red envelopes (in pinyin hóngbāo), oranges, tangerines, and many other things. People buy new clothes and new shoes as well. 

Red envelope are given to children and unmarried adult on Chinese New Year.

CLEANING

About one week before the New Year, people clean the house from top to bottom. It has symbolic meaning, as they sweep the dust and dirt out the door along with the all bad luck which might be collected in the apartment or house.

FRESH START

New Year means a fresh start. Everyone tries to pay all of their debts.

HONORING ANCESTORS

This is one of the most important parts of celebrating the New Year. It means honoring relatives still living and those who died as well, that’s why the cemetery visit is an important task.

CHINESE NEW YEAR CELEBRATION IN SINGAPORE’S SCHOOLS

The schools participate as well. It is a great opportunity to raise awareness about Chinese culture in the multi-racial nation of Singapore. The school is beautifully decorated. Teachers and parents volunteers prepare engaging activities for children during the recess – for example, Chinese characters writing or coloring, cutting and coloring paper oranges, etc. All these are completed with the celebration where the whole school is participating. The children perform their singing, dancing, reciting, Wushu (Chinese martial art) numbers they prepare and practice for this special occasion.

Family Reunion Dinner

On the first day of the New Year, the whole family meets. They bring oranges, tangerines, and different kinds of sweets as a gift. Oranges represent money and wealth. The word “orange” and “gold” sound very similar in Mandarin (orange – 橘子 – in pinyin Júzi, gold – 金子, in pinyin Jīnzi). That’s why they should bring you good fortune. Tangerines are symbols of good luck.

Children and unmarried adults are given red envelopes, I mentioned before, in pinyin hóngbāo with money inside. The envelope is red as it is believed that red is a lucky color. It has a Happy New Year greeting on it. 

The whole family has a big dinner together. Eating a meal together shows the importance of family.

Chinese New Year celebration in Singapore on streets

We, as foreigners in Singapore, can participate in this celebration as well. China Town is exquisitely decorated for this occasion. And every year it is something new. We are always so excited to rediscover this part of the town during the Spring Festival. But this isn’t the only part of the town beautifully dressed and light-up. The decoration is everywhere. can enjoy street performances and lion dances. Last, but not least, I would like to mention the fireworks. They are spectacular here.

Lion Dance as a part of street performance during Chinese New Year.
Fireworks in Singapore.