As the lions dance and the cymbals clash, the beautifully embellished city ushers in the new year and hopes that it brings a lot of good fortune and luck with it. This wonderful festival unveils the traditional side of the modern city, and the inhabitants are dipped in celebrations and merriment. Being the only festival which calls for a public holiday for two consecutive days, Chinese New Year is one of the favourites among the Singaporeans.
As the legend goes, the celebration of the Chinese New Year commenced due to a mythical beast called the Nian. The Nian had invaded a village to eat crops and livestock. He seemed to stop at nothing and also devoured the children. Being scared to death, the villagers decided to go somewhere to hide from him. Only an old man decided to stay back to get revenge on the cruel beast. Everybody thought he had lost his mind, but the old man seemed to know what he was doing. While the villagers were gone, he put up red papers throughout the village and set firecrackers off.
The next day, when the villagers came back to their village, they saw that the Nian had fled. They thought that the old man was an incarnation of God who had come to save them. They understood that the beast was terrified of the colour red as well as the loud noises from the firecrackers. From then on, the villagers wore red clothes and decorated their houses with crimson coloured lanterns and spring rolls. They set off loud firecrackers to ward off the Nian. The beast never set foot in the village again. Later, he was captured by a Taoist Monk named Hongjun Laozu, after which the Nian went back to a mountain.
If traditions are to be followed, then the Chinese New Year is a festival which is celebrated for fifteen days. However, in the Lion City, only the New Year's Eve, along with the first and the second days are celebrated with pomp and pomposity. Regardless of their religions, the Singaporeans join hands in celebration during this fun-filled festival of happiness, thanksgiving and enjoyment.
Almost a month before the celebrations start, the shopkeepers in Singapore start decorating their stores with bright red and gold, and Chinese melodies are heard everywhere. The whole city gets decked up with vibrant lights and glowing lanterns while a sea of colours drowns the monotony of the daily, hectic lives. The streets are jam-packed with people purchasing new goodies and clothes to welcome the new year. It is also a time when an array of scrumptious food items is sold at a large scale. The Eu Tong Sen Street is decorated beautifully as per the particular zodiac sign animal of the upcoming year, and the roads are brightly lit at nights.
The people thoroughly indulge in "spring cleaning", a common tradition before the Chinese New Year where they clean their houses before redecorating them. Touches of crimson are found everywhere, from the lanterns at the doorways to the ribbons tied to plants. Sweeping out the dirt from one's house is considered to be a lucky activity. However, all brooms must be kept away on the day of the New Year, or else it will bring ill luck, according to popular Chinese belief. Row after row of stalls sells traditional trinkets and antiquities which are used for house decor. Most pieces of furniture are up for sale as well, that too at high discounts, so it is a good time to shop for them.
On the eve of the Chinese New Year, families get together to have meals together and express gratitude to have each other in their lives. Restaurants are packed with locals and tourists alike, and the streets are filled with the overpowering scent of delicious food being made in the houses. Most of the shopkeepers take the second half of the day off to spend more time with their families and companions.
On the first and second days of the Chinese New Year, people exchange greetings and presents. The streets are filled with people, usually dressed in red, and the food stalls lined along the pavements receive visitors by the minute. Some of the mouth-watering food items that make an appearance during this festive season are the delicious prune layered cakes, scrumptious coconut cookies that melt in the mouth, buttery pineapple tarts, and crunchy egg biscuits. Tangy barbecued meat and spicy shrimp rolls are also popular at this time. A pair of mandarin oranges is exchanged between loved-ones because they are said to symbolise good luck. However, it is ominous to present someone with only one orange since it brings ill fortune. Children receive money in red envelopes from their elders since the colour red is associated with good fortune. The city is immersed in celebrations and festive activities like carnivals and parades while the night sky is adorned with a spectacular array of vibrant fireworks.
The Chinese New Year houses not one but several events which may be considered to be the highlight of the festival. With traditions and festivities, the city comes alive with fun and frolic.
Singapore River Hongbao Carnival
The Singapore River Hongbao Festival, held at Marina Promenade is one of the most resplendent carnivals witnessed in the city. Housing an endless variety of dishes, art pieces and other knick-knacks, the entire area is adorned with breathtaking life-sized floats of mythical creatures and Chinese deities and legends. Nightly cultural programmes are held, and performers from China are flown in to grace the stage and entertain the people. From finger painting to acrobatics, from calligraphy to choreography, the carnival is full of spectacular events. Chinese Zodiac Sign reading and palm reading are also popular at this carnival. A smorgasbord of activities ranging from amusing carnival games to exciting rides will ascertain that no one faces a single dull moment. To round up the extravaganza, entertaining street performances and alluring Opera, along with pyrotechnics and fireworks are also present.
The Chingay Parade is one of the biggest annual spectacles in the Lion City which had its humble beginning as a procession to commemorate the festivities of the Chinese New Year and transformed into a splendid international event in no time. From graceful salsa dancers to talented Taiwanese acrobats, this parade features hundreds of professional performers and artists from all over including Japan, Australia, Korea and Indonesia. An entertaining marvel of spectacular floats, dancing lions and dragons, and beautiful decorations, the Chingay Parade is indisputably the single event which can capture the multiethnic and the multicultural essence of the city. Starting from the F1 building, the parade is a cacophony of blaring music and enrapturing sights as it makes its way through the back of the Singapore Flyer and proceeds toward the NS Square.
Falling on the first month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, the corresponding dates in the Gregorian calendar usually fluctuate between January and February. In 2019, the Chinese New Year falls on the 5th of February, which is a Tuesday. Since it is celebrated for two days in Singapore, the city will continue with its celebratory activities till the 6th of February.
The entire city of Singapore takes part in the merrymaking and festivities during the Chinese New Year. However, Chinatown and the Marina Bay Floating Platform are the prime locations to visit during the event.
The Chinatown MRT Station is right at the heart of the district. Also, Clarke Quay, Raffles Place, Tanjong Pagar and Outram Park are all just a short walk away from Chinatown. Buses 2, 12, 33, 54, 63, 124, 143, 147, 190, 851, 961, 970, and CT1 can also take you to Chinatown.
To witness the Singapore River Hongbao Carnival, take the MRT and disembark at the Promenade Station. It is a short walk from the Exit A to the venue. On the other hand, you may also take the bus 75, 77, 106, 171, 531, 700A, 857, 960, 961, N, NR1, or NR2 and get down at the Raffles Avenue bus interchange. You shall reach the place within two minutes on foot.
-Most supermarkets and stores remain closed from the Chinese New Year Eve until the second day of the festival, so it is wise to stock up on food. The stores at Little India remain open.
-Cab services are infrequent since the Chinese drivers stay on leave for two to three days and as a result, the Malay and Indian taxi drivers charge higher rates for providing services.
-Avoid wearing black clothes since they are considered to bring bad luck. Using knives or scissors are also associated with ill fortune as it symbolises cutting away good luck.
Witnessing the Chinese New Year celebrations in Singapore should undoubtedly be on your wish list. As the city comes alive with pompous celebrations, scrumptious food and mesmerising decorations, you too are bound to have an unforgettable experience as you paint the town red, quite literally!
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