Spending Chinese New Year in Singapore

2 March 2023

Student Kasja Persson writes about the traditional celebrations

Last month, I had the fantastic opportunity to celebrate Chinese New Year in the heart of the city of Singapore, where I am currently on exchange.

On the eve before Chinese New Year, I met up with some of the friends I had made over the month - exchange students from various universities in Canada - and we went to eat food at the infamous Lau Pa Sat hawker centre. A must try here is the satay, and my favourite is the shrimp (the locals say that Stalls 7 and 8 are the best ones to try).

Having filled our stomachs, we headed out to Chinatown which was surrounded by beautiful decorations. Since this year is the year of the rabbit, there were small rabbits everywhere! We took some time to walk around the local markets, and I had the opportunity to try Bing Tanghulu - a traditional Chinese snack made out of candied fruits which are coated in a shell of sugar on a bamboo stick. ‘Bing’ means ice and the cold of the dessert was a pleasant distraction from the heat created by the crowds around us.

As it was approaching midnight, we headed towards the area surrounding the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, where we eventually stayed until the final countdown. The spirit of celebration among people of all ages was amazing to watch - and many in the crowd were clad in bright red clothing. 

As many may know, Chinese New Year is a long festival. As such, I got the opportunity to celebrate in more ways than one. The following day, I headed over to my friends’ flat where we made homemade Chinese dumplings. It made for a lovely bonding experience, although we failed to eat most of the (far too many) dumplings that we had cooked!

Two days later, I got the chance to visit the home of a local student here at the National University of Singapore. There, my fellow exchanger friends and I got to try Lo hei - which was definitely one of the highlights of Chinese New Year for me. Lo hei means ‘tossing up’ in Cantonese, and we gathered around a large round table with his whole family, proceeded to add and mix various colourful ingredients and wished each other well ahead of the new year. The whole affair can definitely get messy, especially since it is believed that the higher you toss, the better your fortune will be!

To mark off the end of the festivities, my friends and I attended the Chingay Parade, which is an annual street parade which showcases Singapore’s multicultural heritage. For approximately 20 SGD (around 12 pounds) we got a seat to see the whole parade in its entirety. My favourite part of the show was the dragon dance and the closing speech by the president (!!) of Singapore.

Overall, I feel lucky to have been able to celebrate such a special holiday in such a multicultural community.