Chinese New Year in Singapore's Chinatown

How Singaporeans celebrate Chinese New Year

It’s Chinese New Year today! 恭喜发财!(Congratulations on earning loads of money!)

We’re back on Day 2 of our Chinese New Years in Different Countries series.

For today, two Singaporeans will share their take on how people in the country celebrate Chinese New Year.

Leaving the country during CNY

First up is Therese from The Nomad Damsel.

A cursory flip of the local newspapers during the month of January reveal that some Singaporeans do start planning for their Chinese New Year trips shortly after the New Year, and local travel agencies are milking it as much as they can. These travel agencies and their counterparts in other countries will come up with 4-day trips to China/Hong Kong/Taiwan for ‘the authentic Lunar New Year feel’ and even a 4-day getaway to 8 different cities in Europe. 4 days in 8 cities – I saw this advertisement on the 2nd floor of the People’s Park Complex in Chinatown. I wonder if it is humanely possible to see anything but greenery while travelling to so many places.

A study by Mercer in 2011 shows that Singaporeans have one of the lowest number of annual holidays in the world – we beat some countries in Asia when it comes to annual holidays, but we have half the number of holidays compared to the Europeans. So it is no surprise that Singaporeans tend to combine the use of their precious annual leave and state holidays so they are able to spend more time in the host country. Chinese New Year is a prime travelling period as everyone gets two days off work regardless of their ethnicity group. One aunt told me, “If I am to spend money either by travelling or by giving red packets to kids, I would choose to travel. I would prefer to spend money on something I like to do better.”

Of course, there are many Singaporeans who do enjoy spending time with members of their extended family during this festive period, but this is becoming a rare situation as parents might prefer to spend as much of their leisure time with their family instead of the former group of people.

Staying in the country during CNY

Next up is Phebe from thetravellingsquid. She also has an interesting post on 10 Reasons Not To Travel During Chinese New Year.

I always love Chinese New Year because I don’t have to go to work and school. I’m not a big fan of visiting relatives as I am an innately shy person, so finding topics to make small talk can be quite a challenge. Nonetheless, I have some relatives who like to debate on government policies. They fall under a different class in society compared to my family, and it is always nice to listen to their point of view of things.

The relatives on my mother side are not as well-off, but they have always welcomed us to their four room/ three room homes with open arms. It may be a little congested and uncomfortable sitting on tiny, foldable chairs squeezing in front of the TV, while trying to balance a plastic plate filled with food on one hand, and a can of soft drink on a coffee table which is almost filled with pineapple tarts and jars of tiny crispy prawn rolls.

What I like best about Chinese New Year is to watch these afternoon matinée at my relative’s house comprising dated Chinese love/ CNY movies. Stuff like Stephen Chow movies or Infernal Affairs allow me to pass time and relax, without worrying that I should be spending my holiday on more useful things. I also like to indulge in bak kwa [Note from YQ: dried barbequed meat. yum yum.]and beer at the same time, which is not the most healthy option. A friend attests to swapping beer for wine. It’s more healthy and goes well together too : )

I have been away during Chinese New Year on a solo trip to India last year, and it’s not the most joyous of all occasions. I remember feeling very lonely, not because there was no festive atmosphere at all in India, but because I was without the company of my friends and family. Scooting off to discover far lands may seem ideal during the CNY holidays, but I rather stay in Singapore to receive the warmth and blessings from friends, family and even from relatives that I meet only once a year.

Phebe's CNY was spent at Jama Masjid in Delhi
Phebe’s CNY was spent at Jama Masjid in Delhi

Do you travel overseas or stay at home during Chinese New Year?

More about Liau Yun Qing

Yun Qing is a writer, improviser and curious person. She loves finding little adventures in life. In 2013, she went on a 130-day round-the-world trip. She wrote a book to help those who also want to go on a career break.

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