Chinese New Year is an important time for all people ethnically Chinese. Culturally speaking, Singapore has a huge community of people of Chinese decent. Because of this Chinese New Year is the most important festival to most Singaporeans.
Here, the celebration starts way before the actual festival arrives, with Chinese New Year celebrations often lasting for two whole months.
I arrived in Singapore on January 19th, just in time for the kick-off celebration of CNY 2013.
The whole Chinatown area was decorated with tons of red and yellow, and the streets were lined with various forms of snake decorations– including a 300 meter golden lantern snake and a 108 meter red lantern snake.
The golden snake was made of over 850 yellow sky lanterns. Each golden lantern held a coin and symbolized “lighting up hope” in this 300 meter long snake.
Tourists and Singaporeans alike formed a huge line to take their turn at the wishing tree. They would write their wishes for the new year on a slip of paper attached by a ribbon to an orange, before tossing them into the tree. It is said that if it gets stuck in the tree your wishes are sure to come true!
Before the main festivities began that night, people filled the markets trying to purchase their new decorations. Shops filled with red lined the streets near the MRT station.
Once it was nighttime, the real festivities began. Stages shows were set up throughout various parts of Chinatown. They showed both Singaporean and international guests including musicians, comedians, lion dance troupes and more.
The night bazaar came to life and soon was packed with people. People were weaving and ducking as they made their way through the maze of market stalls.
Inside, vendors were selling their local goods such as dried meats, fruit, candy and more. Often they would be shouting through a megaphone trying to get shoppers attention– this was also a great time to snag free samples.
One could also find their lucky plants and flowers here as well. This really was a one-stop night market for anything you could need during the New Year holiday.
Back on the main road, spectators gathered to watch the main stage performances. It felt like I was back in Hong Kong again as the crowds made it impossible to move.
The light up ceremony featured vocal performances, fire-eaters and lion dances galore. Cai Shen (the God of Wealth) was also running around the area, so people tried to catch him for a quick photo opportunity in hopes of good fortunes to come!
We heard cheering and drums only to find that on the other side of the wall of lanterns, lion dance parades were taking place. By the time we made it to the other side, it was too far to get a proper picture, but we saw that another group was getting ready to begin another lion dance.
In my opinion, the highlight of the event that night was seeing the lighting of the giant snake made of zodiac lanterns. Can you find your zodiac lantern below?
The snake was a total of 108 meters and went for at least the 5 blocks it took us to walk to our hotel. We had seen it the previous night when we arrived, but seeing it get lit up was even more beautiful.
Although this snake was only 108 meters, it was made out of over 5,000 cube lanterns. It was created as a blend of traditional and modern designs, and truly lit up the streets with its bright red glow.
Because most of the Chinese in Singapore speak Mandarin and are from eastern areas of Mainland China, celebrating Chinese New Year in Singapore was definitely interesting in a way that was different from celebrating in Hong Kong.
I had no idea that festivities would begin so early and it’s crazy to think that they last for two whole months in Singapore, instead of the normal 15 days. And although I didn’t plan my trip to be involved in any Chinese New Year celebrations, I am certainly glad I could be a part of it.