What to Do in Singapore

The Chinese New Year Survival Guide

By Irene LeeEvents - 05 February 2013 9:00 AM

The Chinese New Year Survival Guide

It’s that time of the year again when married couples empty pockets, or banks, and show their graciousness in big red packets (hóng bāo) all in the name of good luck and warding off evil. Yes, we youngsters love Chinese New Year, the adults? You’ll have to ask them. This year’s celebration is packed with the usual hype and of course something new. According to the Chinese calendar, 2013 – year of the snake – will mark its first day of the year on 10 February.

The Chinese God of Fortune and his sidekick Maneki Neko (aka fortune cat) greet shoppers at the Chinatown festive street bazaar.
Click on above image to  view Chinatown CNY 2013 gallery. Photo: Shawn Danker

Chinatown, the usual rendezvous point for the launch of Chinese New Year is already buzzing with excitement, with the official light up ceremony on 19 January. Don’t worry if you missed it though, because visuals only end officially on 9 February, the date set for the count down. Besides the yearly bazaar that houses a large variety of CNY goodies, this year’s highlights include two unique giant snakes designed by students from Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). The first, a 108m snake sculpture made from 5,000 handcrafted red-cube lanterns, stretches down Eu Tong Sen Street and New Bridge Road, while the second snake slithers down South Bridge Road, boasting a length of 300m and pieced together by 850 yellow sky lanterns.

Also see: CNY in Chinatown gallery

If you’re looking for more entertainment to spice up your festive mood then you better include VivoCity in your list. We hear Vivo will go all out in presenting the finest Chinese heritage in an exciting line-up of award winning troupes from various regions of China. Highlights include acrobatic acts, kung-fu, and cultural dance and musical performances (11 – 16 February | 6:30pm and 8pm | Vivo City, amphitheatre).

The annual River HongBao at Clarke Quay will also host a spectacular set of activities for visitors, surpassing last year’s celebrations. From street stalls that sells handicrafts, and local and foreign delicacies, to performances, and amusement rides and games (8 – 16 Feb | noon – 11:30pm). The River HongBao is also the place to watch a magical display of fireworks that will mark both the light up and countdown ceremony (8 Feb; 8pm and 9 Feb; midnight; Clarke Quay).

Celebrating their first year of the Lunar New Year, Gardens by the Bay will host their own festive joy – Spring Blooms. The usually lit up garden will be even more ignited with lanterns which are strung up all over the garden. Witness a new floral display specially set for the event and other horticultural showcases (through 28 Feb; 9am – 9pm; Gardens by the bay). Visit the conservatories from 10 to 24 February for cheaper deals.

'Thunderstorm' trailer

The celebration continues from 15-24 February with the Huayi Chinese Festival of Arts (various timings and venues). This festival features traditional and contemporary performances like a music and poetry performance (23 Feb), dance recital ‘Thunderstorm’ (24 Feb) as well as free performances in and around the Esplanade.

For a more family orientated activity, try going to the Jurong Bird Park! Watch various shows performed by birds (of course, with assistance from the trainers). View the spectacular array of birds and watch powerful birds such as the eagle and the vulture perform for you at one of their show ‘Birds of Prey’. More shows are available at different timeslots to ensure that you won’t have a single dull moment.

If you’re not interested in a whole area of only birds, well, you can always go down to the Singapore Zoo! Go see the zoo's latest residents Kai Kai and Jia Jia at a special River Safari preview. The zoo will also get into the spirit of the snake with loads of snake-themed activities like snake showcases, snake photography sessions and a special workshop where you can learn all about the slithery animals.

Scenes from a Chingay parade. Photo: STB

Marking the end of the New Year is of course the extravagant Chingay Parade. The word “Chingay” translates to “the art of costume and masquerade” and has been a longstanding tradition in Singapore since 1973 starting as a neighbourhood parade and transforming to “Asia’s Grandest Parade”. This year’s theme is “Fire in Snow” and will feature not only a dramatic snow scene, but an “ocean of fire” where 1,000 burning woks and pots will be used to display a dazzling and fierce performance (22 and 23 Feb | 8pm; $28 – $60 | F1 Pit Building next to Singapore Flyer).

For more Chinese New Year events and happenings, hit up inSing.com’s comprehensive events calendar.