Noticed all the lanterns and bright lights across Chinatown? Yep, it’s that time of the year again! Chinese New Year 2023 is in full force in Singapore, so we’ve listed some great Lunar New Year events and handy tips for you to experience an authentic, fun and prosperous start to the Year of the Rabbit.
What’s it all about?
Marking the beginning of the new year on the Chinese lunar calendar, Chinese New Year (also known as Lunar New Year) is celebrated by communities all over the world. The Chinese New Year events traditionally last for a total of 15 days. The evening before the first day is typically spent having a sumptuous dinner with family. (This is called the reunion dinner.) Common traditions include buying new clothes, exchanging oranges, giving red packets and putting up decorations such as lanterns to bring good luck and fortune.
There are many legends surrounding the origins of the festival. The story of Nian is among the popular ones. According to Chinese myth, a monster called Nian lived in the mountains surrounding a village. On the first day of every year, he would torment the villagers, feasting on grain, cattle … and children! They eventually discovered that the beast was afraid of loud noises and the colour red. So, to get rid of Nian, they spread red across the village, banged on drums and set off fireworks. And Nian never returned. These actions became part of the New Year tradition – hanging up red decorations and lanterns, and playing loud drums. In Mandarin, the word for New Year is guo nian, which literally translates to “overcoming Nian”.
Where to go and what to do in Chinese New Year 2023
This Year of the Rabbit, Funan’s popular mall-wide art activation Creative Intersections returns, marrying artists with brands to bring creativity to the masses. The major month-long art-meets-retail programme returns from 6 January to 5 February as part of Singapore Art Week with six established artist and brand collaborations. Expect innovative installations inspired by the sweet and social nature of the rabbit.
The immersive programme is presented by Funan and curated with collaborator, Chan + Hori Contemporary. From text-based art stitched with embroidery, to a ‘walk-in’ installation through the lenses of an eyewear retailer and recycle art workshops, it’s an opportunity to explore the arts on your next shopping trip!
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Don’t miss a stroll through Chinatown where you can admire the annual festive street light-up. Themed “Leaping into the Prosperous Year of the Rabbit”, this year marks the 21-year anniversary of the Chinatown Chinese New Year 2023 Celebrations. Visitors can expect installations of lively and colourful rabbits along New Bridge Road, South Bridge Road, Eu Tong Sen Street and, for the first time, Upper Cross Street. The festive decorations will be up until 19 February.
Besides the iconic light-up, there’s also an array of other Chinese New Year events. The Chinatown countdown party at 10.30pm on 21 January returns to Kreta Ayer Square to usher in an auspicious Year of the Rabbit. For foodies and last-minute shoppers, the annual Festive Fair making its long-awaited return with a whopping 280 stalls offering Chinese New Year goodies. There are also free stage shows over the weekends presenting stellar performances for the whole family to enjoy.
For information on the full line-up, check out the official website here.
Of course, we can’t forget the annual Chingay Parade, one of the key Chinese New Year 2023 events in Singapore. This is the largest street performance and float parade in Asia, so it’s one you’ll definitely want to catch! After being a hybrid event in the last two years, it’s returning to delight audiences in person this Chinese New Year. This year’s Chingay is a multi-sensory experience happening on 3 and 4 February at F1 Pit Building, embodying the theme Embrace Tomorrow.
More than 13,000 people are involved in the making of Chingay 2023. Taking centre stage is a Container Art Installation, made up of 28 shipping containers designed by Sam Lo. This distinctive showpiece will serve as the performance backdrop for the parade. Expect riveting performances by Chingay Community Star 2023 of We’ve Got Talent and the winning groups of the Dynamic: Diversity (D:2) Dance Competition. Also, look out for the return of return of big floats alongside 17 mini floats created by grassroots communities.
Can’t catch the parade in-person? Watch the livestream on Facebook, YouTube or the official Chingay website. A selection of performances will also be staged in heartland locations! Check out the details here: chingay.gov.sg
Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall
This Chinese New Year 2023, bring your kids to take pictures with auspicious bunnies. Titled Bunny-ful Blessings, this adorable lawn installation sitting in front of SYSNMH is a collaboration between the Memorial Hall and artist Chan Siu Kau, a Hong Kong illustrator and designer. It features two of the artist’s Bit Bit Forest characters in the form of daruma rabbits decorated with the words 幸 (xìng) meaning blessing, fortune and luck, and 福 (fú) meaning happiness. The installation is on display until 19 February.
Besides that, SYSNMH has also prepared a spectrum of Chinese New Year 2023 events for the whole family. Don’t miss the auspicious lion and dragon dance performance on 22 January. It’s free and runs from 10am to 11am. The God of Fortune will also visit from 10am to 12pm, with sweet treats handed out to herald in an abundant year. Ticketed Chinese New Year events, meanwhile, include the Balestier Heritage Food Trail, Children Lion Dance Workshop, Children Festive Chinese Drums Workshop and more!
Visit SYSNMH’s official website: sysnmh.org.sg/en for the full programme list.
Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC)
SCCC’s Roof Garden comes alive with a spectacular rabbit-themed art installation exhibition to welcome the Year of the Rabbit. Titled “兔gether”, the art installations created by local art and design studio Whisky and Foxtrot LLP present a cast of characters from Chinese New Year mythology. These characters will showcase local Chinese New Year events and practices that are enjoyed together with family and friends. It runs until 31 March.
Additionally, you can enjoy a free live music performance this Chinese New Year 2023 on 20 January at 8pm, featuring the dynamic Ah Boys To Men duo Maxi Lim and Noah Yap, Ah Girls Go Army cast members along with local talent Leon Ho, and Taiwanese artiste Hao Hao. Thanks to TGIF Music Station, you can choose to experience the performances in-person at SCCC’s Ho Bee Concourse or in the comfort of your home via livestream on SCCC’s Facebook or Tik Tok.
Red packets – various venues
The Museum Roundtable Lunar New Year Hongbao Campaign returns this year with new red packet designs based on the Chinese zodiac Year of the Rabbit! In this exciting Chinese New Year event, visitors will be able to collect exclusively designed red packets at 39 participating museums, heritage institutions and galleries, while stocks last. Each set has eight red packets, themed respectively to the 39 participating museums, and is limited to one set per visitor.
In addition, visitors can purchase a limited-edition Collector’s Album containing a full set of all the red packet designs, while stocks last. You also stand a chance to win a full set of the red packets through online giveaways on the I Love Museums Facebook page: facebook.com/ILoveMuseums
Come to Istana for a special Lunar New Year celebration in the Year of the Rabbit as it opens to the public on Monday, 23 January, from 8.30am to 6.00pm. The opening of the enhanced Swan Pond, including a new garden stream and viewing deck, is a must-see.
Enjoy family-friendly festive activities from candle-making to Chinese calligraphy, or catch drum, dance and band performances by student groups from Hwa Chong Institution, Maris Stella High School, and many more! Take the chance to also explore the Istana Main Building with guided tours at various timings, including the flora and fauna at the iconic location.
There will also be food stalls and a food truck so don’t worry about getting hungry, and merchandise booths with limited edition souvenirs! For more details, visit istana.gov.sg/Visit-And-
Celebrate the Year of the Rabbit with meaningful play at the National Museum, featuring a range of activities designed for the whole family to enjoy. Join the lucky Lunar New Year museum hunt for auspicious symbols, craft your own floral arrangements and decorative vase, catch a festive lion dance performance, listen to creative renditions of Chinese New Year songs, and more!
Most activities are free of charge. Better yet, they all take place on 4 February, so you aren’t missing out while doing family visits. Check out the full programme list here: nhb.gov.sg/
Greenwood Fish Market
What’s Lunar New Year without a hearty plate of yu sheng? Greenwood Fish Market invites you to a lavish meal with not one but three yu sheng options! Hardcore salmon lovers can opt for the Classic Salmon Yu Sheng, or consider the Auspicious Salmon and Lobster Yu Sheng for variety. The ultimate Three Treasures Yu Sheng is also available for those in the mood to indulge, featuring king crab legs, Boston lobster and, of course, fresh salmon sashimi. Time for a toss-up for good luck!
Check out the tantalising details here.
Looking for a cosy spot for your reunion dinner? White Restaurant’s customised Lunar New Year set menu offerings are now available at its seven restaurants island-wide – including the newest outlet at Vivo City!
This year, in addition to festive sets specially curated for groups from 4 to 10, diners can choose from a series of à la carte dishes from juicy roasts to fresh seafood. The staple of each feast is (of course) the Grand Fortune Abalone Yusheng. The signature White Beehoon with festive deluxe additions such as scallops and abalones is also available in all sets. Each Lunar New Year set menu requires a 3-day in-advance pre-order. Interested parties can reserve online here: reserve.oddle.me/whiterestaurant
Si Chuan Dou Hua
Need more food options for the festive season? Si Chuan Dou Hua brings to the table a variety of Lunar New Year Set Menus available till 5 February. With prices starting from $98 per person, it caters to different group sizes. Try the restaurant’s first-ever Abundance Treasures Yu Sheng featuring a combination of signature La Zi Ji (diced chicken with dried chilli), Abalone and Smoked Salmon Yu Sheng to welcome the Year of the Rabbit. Don’t miss out on outlet-exclusive dishes including King Garoupa with Fresh Sichuan Peppercorn and Braised Lobster with Fish Paste Noodles.
Vegetarians can also enjoy a hearty Chinese New Year 2023 feast! Si Chuan Dou Hua’s Vegetarian Set Menu is a feast that’s healthy without compromising on taste. Expect all the Chinese New Year staples made with guilt-free meatless ingredients.
Pre-order (at least 3 days in advance) via phone at 3138 6711 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tim Ho Wan
Hop into ‘Hare-piness’ this Chinese New Year 2023 with the Cantonese classic Tim Ho Wan. The new seasonal Prosperity Feast collection consists of five dishes – three new items alongside two existing crowd-favourites back by popular demand. The festive menu features deep-fried taro cake with crispy garlic, pan-fried Mochi Nian Gao, refreshing Yuzu Bunny Konnyaku Jelly, fragrant crabmeat fried rice and truffle mushroom buns. The portion sizes are perfect for those who prefer lighter bites.
From 10 to 13 January, there’s also a special deal where you get two takeaway dishes for just $11.50 (limited to a selected menu). Visit timhowan.
Ah Mah Homemade Cake
There’s nothing like some crafted goodies to indulge in nostalgia during Lunar New Year. Ah Mah Homemade Cake brings you the old but gold with a delectable range of cakes, cookies and tarts. Its crowd favourite Chicken Floss Castella Cake is a sweet and savoury treat available for a limited time only. You can also opt for the zesty flavours of Pandan and Coffee butter cookies, and relish the taste of traditional pineapple tarts, a festive must-have!
Made by hand and baked fresh, these desserts make for yummy holiday snacks and gifts for your loved ones. Check them out here: ah-mah.com.sg.
Dos and Don’ts during the Lunar New Year
Tips from Master Clarice Chan’s Guide to 2022. The book is available online at her website.
- Make sure you say “Gong Xi Fa Cai” to wish friends and colleagues a prosperous New Year.
- Prepare food before New Year’s Day so that all sharp instruments such as knives and scissors can be put away. This avoids cutting the luck out of the New Year or severing any ties with family and friends.
- Refrain from using negative expressions or talking ill of others; it’s a time to promote joy and abundance.
- Don’t wash your hair on the first day of the Lunar New Year as hair has the same sound as the word fatt or fa, which means prosperity. Therefore, washing your hair will encourage any wealth and prosperity to be washed away. Clothes should not be washed on this day for the same reason.
- Colours are very important to the Chinese. Typically, only bright colours are considered auspicious, especially red and gold. White and black are generally associated with sad occasions such as funerals or illness, and are therefore considered unlucky or inauspicious.
- Gifts are not common except for Mandarin oranges, which are mandatory to offer to hosts when visiting during the first 15 days of the Lunar New Year.
- Unmarried adults and children receive “Hong Baos” or “Ang Pows” from married family members and friends. These red envelopes are filled with crisp new bills totalling an even amount of money. Odd numbers are not given during the celebrations.
Food and other preparations:
- Always use new Ang Pow packets.
- Always fill your Ang Pows with new banknotes.
- Have plenty of Mandarin oranges available.
- Use a circular candy tray.
- Keep some flowers, especially plum blossoms, peach blossoms and pussy willows. These symbolise happiness and good fortune.
- Wear new clothes and shoes.
Major Chinese New Year activities:
- Clean your entire home and get rid of all clutter.
- Put away old brooms and brushes as they’re considered to bring bad luck; new brooms and brushes are very important.
- Pay off as many of your debts as possible, if you have any.
- Resolve differences with family members, friends, neighbours and business associates.
Read more about things to do in Singapore:
Chinese New Year snacks: Guide to the best treats
Things to do this week