Chinese New Year (more appropriately called the Lunar New Year) is normally celebrated around late January or in the month of February, depending on the solar calendar each year. The celebration lasts for 15 days. But, the festive atmosphere can be felt 2 weeks before as majority of the population here prepares for the festival.
If you are visiting during the “preparation” period, then Chinatown is the must go place to soak up the atmosphere.
The Chinese New Year bazaar is spread over 4 streets and opens daily till 11pm. On Chinese New Year Eve (also the last day of the bazaar), the whole of Chinatown is packed to the brim (expects lots of squeezing and brushing against sweaty bodies). The bazaar comes to a close between 1am to 2am.
What Year is It?
In the Chinese calendar, each year is represented by an animal. There are a total of 12 animals. To know which is the leading animal for the coming year, head down to New Bridge Road to check it out.
Where to Start
A good starting point will be the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum. It is opened daily from 7am to 7pm. Admission is free.
After your visit here, you have the choice of entering the bazaar on your left, or walk further down the road to your left to visit Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple, Sri Mariamman Temple. It is opened daily from 7am to 12pm; 6pm to 9pm. A nominal photography fee is payable for photo-taking inside the temple.
From here, you can refill your energy with local delights at the food street before diving into the sea of humans at the end of this street.
Highlights of Bazaar
Unlike other bazaar, the Chinese New Year bazaar centred around the essential decorative items, auspicious food and fruits and must have snacks to usher in the new year with good luck and prosperity for the household.
Chinese New Year Decorative
Just like Christmas stockings and greetings dotting our walls during Christmas; auspicious idioms and paper cut-outs in red and gold are must have decorative during Chinese New Year. Red symbolises good luck and gold symbolises wealth.
These seasonal fruits are not only yummy and a good source of vitamin C to balance out the many days of feasting, they are also deemed auspicious because of how their names in mandarin is being interpreted.
Pomelo (the big greenish fruit at the back) known as 柚子 (you zi) in mandarin is considered auspicious as 柚 has the same pronunciation as 有 – which means “have”.
This yellowish fruit that resemble a hand is known as 佛手 (fo shou) or Buddha’s Hand. Though a medicinal fruit, the snack version is really good (my personal favourite 😉 ).
What better ways to liven up the home than these festive plants? The most common had to be the Pussy Willow or 银柳 (ying liu). After it has blossomed, it can be left without water till the next new year. A value for money sturdy plant!
The other popular auspicious plant is the Lucky Bamboo or 开运竹 (kai yun zhu). It usually comes in spiral form to symbolise a change in luck from bad to good for the new year.
The Hyacinthus or 风信子 (feng xin zi) is another hot favourite because of its vibrant colours.
It is snack time! These jellies come in a huge variety of flavours and colours (try it before buying or even if you aren’t buying).
You can also try a wide variety of melon seeds and peanuts that come in different flavours.
Or go for dried fruits like mango, kiwis, persimmons (my favourite 🙂 ) and the list goes on…
Of course, if time is on your side, why not join in the queue at this popular store for their signature honey glazed pork jerky (肉干)? Get them to vacuum pack for you if you intend to bring it up the plane.
Don’t forget to check out the cookies stalls selling all the new year goodies! PS: the choosy me prefer getting mine from bakeries from the various New Year’s fairs held in major shopping malls though (try out the cookies too).
One of the most interesting stall at the bazaar had to be the stall selling cured meat. Different dialect groups have their own must have food. And cured meat is a must for the Cantonese dialect group.
From left: salted fish (hanging), Chinese pork sausage, waxed/cured duck, Chinese liver sausage (the black ones). You can also get your hands on Chinese “Iberico” (see picture below)!
Finally, if you are overwhelmed with the food tasting, shoving around and heat, there is always a little quiet alley to take a sip and watch the world goes by…
Or maybe pop into the TinTin store for some “cool” relief?
Now that you’re done shopping at the Chinese New Year Bazaar, what else is in there for you during the first two days of the Lunar New Year (which is a public holiday)?