Chinese New Year in Singapore

When is Chinese New Year?

Chinese New Year is on February 12, 2021.
It falls on Friday.

How many days until Chinese New Year?

There are 24 Days left until Chinese New Year in Singapore.

What is Chinese New Year?

Otherwise called Spring Festival or Lunar New Year, Chinese New Year is a public holiday in Singapore which marks the first day of the year based on the Chinese Lunar Calendar. While most countries celebrate New Year’s Day on the first day of January (based on Gregorian Calendar), there are also several countries that celebrate or observe the start of the new year following the traditional Chinese calendar. Chinese New Year is usually observed in countries where there is a large Chinese population and that includes Singapore. Chinese people comprise 70% of Singapore’s population, which explains why it is such a massive celebration in the country. In addition, Chinese New Year is one of the most significant holidays in Singapore.

Chinese New Year Origin

When is Chinese New Year?

Unlike New Year’s Day celebrations for countries following the Gregorian calendar which consistently take place on January 1st every year, the Chinese New Year is a different story as the date of the Chinese New Year may differ each year. The reason why the date varies is due to the Chinese calendar’s dependency on the Moon phase and the time of the solar year. The Chinese New Year takes place on the second New Moon after the winter solstice. Specifically, the beginning of the Chinese New Year is marked by the New Moon that appears within the date range from January 21st to February 20th. According to Chinese tradition, each year is named after one of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals. The twelve animals are the following: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

The Legend of Nian

Different tales and legends are associated with the Chinese New Year. One of those is the Legend of Nian. Several stories are also connected with Nian – a beast residing under the mountains/sea. According to one legend, an unknown mythical beast called Nian visits a village, destroying and eating farmers’ livestock, crops and even small children in the middle of the night during the Spring Festival. To put an end to its destruction, the villagers discovered Nian’s fear of lions, the color of red and sensitivity to loud noises and thus decided to make a lion model characterization to scare Nian away. They also added a cacophony of banging pots and pans to frighten the mythical beast. Since then, Nian stopped returning to the village, putting an end to its reign of terror. Based on this lore, firecrackers and loud fireworks is prevalent during Chinese New Year as it helps evict bad spirits away, although such displays and usage is now arranged by the Singapore Tourism Board for the Chinese New Year or other celebrations, since most fireworks have been banned since 1972.

Chinese New Year Traditions in Singapore

Reunion Dinner

In Singapore, an annual family reunion dinner has become part of the celebration for the Chinese New Year. It is a time for people to gather with their families, including extended family members. Usually, the family members would return home (even those living a far distance away) to spend time and share a special meal called the reunion dinner (or Nian Ye Fan). Reunion Dinner is shared on the eve of the Lunar New Year. People of all socioeconomic status prepare plenty of food for the dinner, believing it will bring them more wealth and blessings for the new year. Among the popular foods prepared during the holiday are hotpot dinner (which refers to a flavored broth or hot soup), accompanied with dumplings, fish, meats, noodles, spring rolls, vegetables, among many others. Just like the beliefs shared by other countries, many Singaporeans believe in the symbolic meanings of food during the Chinese New Year. For instance, pomelo represents abundance and prosperity, dumplings symbolize wealth due to its resemblance to Chinese yuanbao (a type of valuable treasure in a form of silver or gold), nian gao is believed to bring good fortune when eaten during the Chinese New Year. Nian gao, a cake made from a glutinous rice flour, is a very popular food for this festivity in fact, some people call nian gao the Chinese New Year’s cake.

Why is Lion Dance Popular during Chinese New Year?

Lion Dance has been a popular tradition which originated in China from thousands of years ago. In Chinese culture, lion is an emblem of prosperity, wisdom, and power. Lion Dance is believed to bring good luck and good fortune, which explains why the dance is very popular during traditional Chinese festivals like the Chinese New Year. Lion Dance is a dance which depicts the movement of a lion, performed by two dancers dressed in a lion costume. One performer controls the head of the lion, while the other controls the lion’s rear end. Aside from a Lion Dance, Dragon Dance is also observed during Chinese New Year. Dragon Dance varies from the Lion Dance as it requires more performers to execute the simulation of the dragon’s lengthy and curvy body. Dragon Dance mimics the long flexible figure and movement of a dragon. Both the Lion Dance and Dragon Dance are usually accompanied by loud beating of drums. Both dances are very popular in different occasions in fact, they are not just performed during Chinese New Year, but also during weddings, launching of a business, blessing for establishments, among others. Such practice is associated with the belief that Lion Dance drives away evil spirits and bad omens.

Chingay Parade

Chingay (which translates to zhuangyi in Mandarin) is a Hokkien dialect which means the art of costume and masquerade. Chingay Parade is a yearly street parade as part of celebration for the Lunar New Year since the year 1973 and is considered to be one of the main public events for the holiday. The parade features lustrous parade floats, cultural performances, stilt walkers, dragon dances, as well as acrobatic performers, clowns, jugglers, and others. The event attracts not just locals but also international tourists due to its wide variety of entertainment options for people of all ages. Fireworks displays are also arranged for the parade as it is one of the biggest and most popular street parades in Asia.

Customary Beliefs

Red is a very popular color for the holiday along with gold colored accents, which is why many people in Singapore wear something red for the festivities. In addition, giving money to children inside a red envelope is also customary. Some people believe that New Year’s Day is not the best time to get a haircut. It is due to an old belief regarding the Chinese character for hair having a similar sound or meaning to the word “luck” in Chinese. Simply put, if you cut your hair on New Year’s Day, it would be equivalent to eliminating good luck and prosperity. According to old traditions, haircuts, paying off debts, and cleaning should be done before the start of the Lunar New Year to evict bad luck and evil spirits from the old year. For others, simply participating in reunion dinner and watching fireworks display is the way to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Many people head to River Hongbao as it is the best place to witness festive lights and amazing fireworks during one of the greatest times of the year.

Dates of Observance for Chinese New Year
Year Date Day Holiday
2021 February 12 Friday Chinese New Year
2022 February 01 Tuesday Chinese New Year
2023 January 22 Sunday Chinese New Year
2024 February 10 Saturday Chinese New Year
2025 January 29 Wednesday Chinese New Year
2026 February 17 Tuesday Chinese New Year
Upcoming Singapore Holidays
Holiday Date
Chinese New Year February 12, 2021
Chinese New Year February 13, 2021
Good Friday April 02, 2021