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Guide to Chinese New Year Festivities in Singapore

Wondering what to do during CNY? Here are our auspicious picks.

Chinese New Year (or CNY) is one of the biggest festivals in Singapore. For the entire month of February, Chinese families will be busy spring-cleaning, whipping up meals of epic proportions, watching fireworks, lion dances, and the Chingay parade, and tucking into celebratory yusheng—an auspicious dish where participants have to shout out blessings while tossing the colourful shredded raw vegetables mixed with raw fish. (Every ingredient in this dish signifies good luck, health, or a blessing. If you’re unsure of what to say, just shout “Huat!” which means prosperity in Hokkien.) 

Colourful, noisy, and steamy (think Chinese hot pot), Chinese New Year is a time for merrymaking with your family and friends. During the first two days of the festival, people are out on the streets all day, visiting relatives and friends. Ladies are decked in fashionable, figure-hugging cheongsams; men too are dressed to the nines with spanking-new outfits and shoes. Meanwhile, children of all ages gleefully pocket their red packets (hongbao) filled with fresh dollar bills.

With island-wide festivities running from Chinese New Year’s eve to the 15th day of the first lunar calendar month, this period is also one of the best times to visit Singapore. Let the PARKROYAL on Pickering team give you the lowdown on some of the best sights and sounds during this festive season.

1. What To See During CNY

River Hongbao
Venue: The Float @ Marina Bay
20 Raffles Avenue
Singapore 039805
Hours: 2.00pm – 11.00pm daily (14 February to 24 February 2018; event recurs annually depending on lunar calendar)
Extended till 1:00am on CNY Eve (15 February 2018)

Chingay Parade
Venue:
F1 Pit Building, 1 Republic Blvd, Singapore 038975
Hours: 8:00pm to 9:30pm
Admission fee: SGD 28.50-50

Esplanade
Address:
1 Esplanade Drive, Singapore 038981

Chinese New Year is the time to indulge your senses and River Hongbao is one such avenue. An 11-day musical and carnival extravaganza (14 February to 24 February 2018), the event allows you to experience Chinese culture in its full glory. Expect to mingle with the crowds, chomp on local delicacies and street food, or receive showers of blessings from the “God of Fortune” daily. Cap it all off with a spectacular fireworks and countdown party on CNY eve.

(Check out the 2018 programme held at The Float @ Marina Bay here.)

For those who can’t get enough of fireworks, fret not; there’s still the Chingay Parade, a uniquely Singaporean version of the Mardi Gras. “Chingay” means “the art of costume and masquerade” and that’s pretty much what you’ll get, and more – think prancing lions, stilt walkers, and over-the-top floats.

Touted as the largest street performance and float parade in Asia, Chingay was mooted by the late former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew; with all its fanfare and gaiety, it appeared to compensate for the island’s ban on firecrackers, formerly a popular practice during this season to drive away evil spirits. Get your tickets to the Chingay parade here.

If you prefer a taste of culture without the crowds, your safest bet is Huayi – an annual Chinese Festival of Arts that features a delectable line-up of theatre, dance, and music performances by outstanding Chinese artists from Singapore and beyond.

Held at the Esplanade, this year’s 16th edition of Huayi will feature the festival's first-ever local work commissioned for the 2,000-seater Esplanade Theatre. I Came At Last To The Seas by the Theatre Practice, explores the issues of identity and migration. Directed by Kuo Jian Hong, it will star Sing! China finalist Joanna Dong and local actor Sugie Phua, as well as overseas talents from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. There are also fun and free activities for the whole family so be sure to check these out!

Get directions to The Float @ Marina Bay

Get directions to Chingay (F1 Pit Building)

Get directions to Esplanade

2. Things To Do in Singapore During CNY

Address: The Istana, Orchard Road, Singapore 238823

On 17 February 2018, the Istana’s gates will be open to the public in celebration of the festive season. The Istana is one of Singapore’s key points of interest. During its opening hours (usually between 8:30am to 6:00pm), visitors can take a tour around the main building, or join a guided walk through the gardens for the chance to learn about the Istana grounds’ flora and fauna.

Chinese New Year is also when the streets of Chinatown are filled with a contagious energy. From around 6pm daily, some 2,188 lanterns will come alive and fill the streets with bursting colour. There will also be all manner of new year goodies to buy and munch on, from the mouth-watering bak kwa (charred slices of roast pork) to the ubiquitous pineapple tart. The festivities at Chinatown will run from 27 January to 16 March 2018.

For something a little more child-friendly, head to Sentosa. One of the most popular tourist attractions in Singapore, the playfully named “State of Fun” will be decked in adorable Snoopy-themed decor and zodiac boards. During the first three days of Chinese New Year (16 to 18 February 2018), there will be lion dance and dragon dance performances, along with meet and greet sessions with Snoopy. If you’d like to see what the Year of the Dog holds for you, you can even have your fortune read at Resorts World Sentosa’s Fortune Street.

Get directions to Istana

Get directions to Chinatown

Get directions to Sentosa

3. Where To Eat During CNY

CNY is also the time to gather with family and friends to enjoy a grand reunion dinner as an auspicious and heartwarming way to usher in success and abundance for the year.

Featuring culinary delights such as Pink Peppercorn Brined Salmon fillet with Garlic Aioli, Half-Shell Scallop with Garlic Butter, and Peking Duck with Hoisin Sauce Pizza, the royal reunion dinner at LIME Restaurant at PARKROYAL on Pickering looks set to be a memorable culinary experience. Located at the heart of Chinatown, meat lovers can look forward to a dedicated carvery station. There, you can indulge in the Roasted Pork Knuckle or Slow-Roasted Boneless Beef Short-Ribs. The restaurant will also be dishing out complimentary treats such as Prosperity Yu Sheng and Buddha Jump over the Wall for its dinner guests on the eve of Lunar New Year.

Remember to “Lo” (toss) to your heart’s content, while pronouncing words of blessing such as “Huat” (prosper), “Wan Shi Ru Yi” (may your wishes come true), or “Cai Yuan Guang Jin” (may wealth flow in.) For a helpful list of suggested greetings, check out this website.

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